Toy-maker bids to take over West Coast line

The traditional civil servant, with his bowler hat and rolled umbrella, might not have seen the joke.

When a bid arrived at the Department for Transport from the Folkestone-based toy-maker , BigJigs, offering to take over the troubled West Coast rail franchise, he might have thought it too silly to merit a moment of his time. But Mark Reach, private secretary to Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, sent back a detailed reply. While acknowledging that BigJigs' trains were "perfect for the in-home market", he queried the "crashworthiness" of BigJigs' wooden carriages and whether two sets of wheels per carriage were enough.

He also suggested that the allocation of space on BigJigs trains, which consist of a locomotive, two carriages and a guard's van, would be inefficient. There is also a problem that the carriages do not tilt, which is essential at high speed. "It will be necessary to retrofit a tilting mechanism," he said. But he concluded: "Your vibrant livery would certainly brighten up the railway."

A spokesman for BigJigs said: "We are going to make a few minor changes to the bid and resubmit it."