So why has First Group been awarded the West Coast by the government? The answer is simple: by making promises of attractive improvements which cannot be tested until they are delivered and by offering the Treasury more for the franchise than Richard Branson believes can be found without significant cuts in services that he is not prepared to introduce to a service whose passenger numbers he has doubled in ten years. Perhaps Tim O'Toole, the American boss of First Group inadvertently got near to the truth when he said on a BBC Radio 4 Today interview yesterday that his company intends to exploit the West Coast line.
U-turns are not easily found on railway tracks but the government may soon be looking for one as opposition to this unjustifiable decision increases. Surely Mr Branson, an innovative British businessman if ever there was one, deserves better treatment than this from the government?