Branson would run rail line for free if MPs look at First Group deal

| August 27, 2012 | 0 Comments

Daily Mail Reporter

15:24 EST, 26 August 2012


02:17 EST, 27 August 2012

Sir Richard Branson has made an offer to run the West Coast Main Line for free, allowing Parliament time to scrutinise the decision, which the Virgin boss calls ‘outrageous’, to award the franchise to rival FirstGroup.

Sir Richard has claimed that FirstGroup’s bid will lead to ‘almost certain bankruptcy’ and made the last-ditch appeal to the Government to delay signing the 13-year contract on Tuesday.

He said Virgin Trains and Stagecoach would operate the joint venture on a not-for-profit basis or donate profits to charity if the franchise needed to be extended beyond December for a few months to allow Parliament to investigate the decision.

One of Sir Richard Branson's trains on the West Coast line

Ousted: One of Sir Richard Branson’s trains on the West Coast line

The entrepreneur is also pressing for an independent audit of the Department for Transport’s decision over the £10 billion deal.

plea comes after Louise Ellman, the chairman of the House of Commons
Transport Committee, wrote to Transport Secretary Justine Greening
asking her to hold off signing the final contract, saying that
‘important issues’ had been raised.

more than 100,000 members of the public have signed an online petition
against the decision, in a campaign supported by double Olympic champion
Mo Farah, Apprentice star Lord Sugar and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Richard said: ‘It is far better for MPs to have the chance to debate
the issues, and question ministers on the detail before the decision is

‘To assist
in this process, there should be an independent audit of the DfT
decision to ensure it has been based on correct criteria and reliable
forecasting of customer numbers, revenue and payments to Government.

‘We must ensure that this crucial decision is taken with all the facts correctly assessed and understood.’

Richard accepted that he has a ‘vested interest’ but added: ‘City
analysts, politicians, media commentators and – most importantly – our
many loyal customers have seized on this decision as outrageous, unjust
and simply wrong.’

Virgin has operated the West Coast line since 1997 and has more than doubled annual passenger numbers over 15 years

claims it will deliver better value for taxpayers. It plans major
improvements to the InterCity West Coast franchise to enhance the
customer experience, including improved wifi and catering, as well as
additional services and more seats and reducing standard anytime fares
by 15 per cent on average.

Here’s what other readers have said. Why not add your thoughts,
or debate this issue live on our message boards.

The comments below have not been moderated.

France has a fantastic rail service why?.
Because it’s run and paid for by the public for the public, it’s not in private hands of greed.
We should go back to state owned railways, look at the mess on the EASTCOAST MAIN – LINE, no private firms want it it doen’t make enough cash for them, and there shareholders.

If it means they have time to re-examine First Group’s ridiculous bid, great. What they are proposing is totally unfeasbile. Virgin might not be your first choice, but they are definitely the lesser of two evils here.

Branson never does anything for free.

How about Branson operates his hospitals for free while MPs look again at the legislation which handed NHS hospitals over to him?

The Dept of Transport have a shocking record of choosing contractors for rail franchises. Their decision needs examined in Parliament and if that needs a short extension to the current contract, so be it. If First Group’s bid is beyond reproach, they will surely want an end to the doubts an the best way of doing that is for them to back the call for the delay and allow Parliament to take evidence.

Richard Branson is never happy! Why on earth will they be willing to run a service for free? He always complaints against a decision, in aviation or rail.


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