First win Intercity West Coast franchise

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Pen Mill

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I should think that at present Branson is trying to buy time. He wanted to win and he hasn’t. At the moment it would be very difficult to prove that First’s bid is unrealistic, though it possibly may turn out to have been, some years ahead. The situation is a gift for Maria Eagle and Labour, who can use it to imply that the Coalition has got it wrong, and at the same time appear to be supporting Bob Crow. If Branson can delay the signing of the contract with First, his lawyers will have more opportunity to look for some procedural error. Quite possibly there is one, though it wouldn’t necessarily have changed the outcome of the franchise selection process. Surely Branson cannot hope to have the whole process restarted, and if he did, and then bid more, it would contradict his claim that to have bid more this time would risk bankrupting Virgin Trains.

As far as I can tell (without reading through this whole thread) Virgin seem to have missed a trick by not planning to buy new electric trains for the Birmingham to Scotland services and thus release Voyagers for new services elsewhere. Part of First’s justification for increasing their revenue and thus being able to pay higher premiums is that they will be offering more capacity and attract more passengers.

Transparency? I don’t think it’s realistic to have each bidder’s complete submission made public. We pay civil servants to assess the bids and sort them out. The obvious purpose is to get the best financial deal combined with the provision of a good rail service. Getting people to vote? On what basis would they decide? Most of the people who have signed the petition supporting Virgin will have no idea of the validity of the bids. They’d be against First because their bus was full last Wednesday, or against Branson because they couldn’t sit where they wanted on their last Virgin flight.

Virgin have made a substantial contribution to the rail industry and I shall sorry to see them leave. I don’t see convincing evidence that the DfT have reached the wrong conclusion.

I wonder what everyone would be saying if Abellio or Keolis had won.

If the coalition gives into this rubbish , I can see First coming in with a colossal counter-judicial review case which could be costing us , Joe Public a fortune.
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tra1nsp0tter

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If Virgin using top lawyers to mount legal challenge, then I would expect them to succeed, u only have to see how celebrities get off with various things, to see that money can buy u anything, if e petition and mp's won't stop Greening from burying her head in the sand and pushing on, then fair do to Virgin for mounting legal challenge, wish them luck.

Couldn't agree more, well said.
 

34Short

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Make a bit of an effort then or is that too much to ask?

Less of the animosity, please.

If I had put my bit in, it would be void. I had some form of input to one of the bids - But I'm not going to rattle on about my employment for the past few months.

Did the public know it was up for grabs? How many passengers knew about the entire system?
 

jon0844

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It does need an overhaul. It's all great offering it to the highest bidder, but what would happen to the services? The staff? Facilities? I don't think they look far enough - and come to think about it, the public are offered no consultation whatsoever. It's the public's services, not just for those who sit in the House of Commons.

I get sick at how this country is run like a business, with very little consideration for the people.

But surely you need to provide decent evidence that a bid isn't deliverable before you can simply demand to keep the franchise no matter what?

Sir Richard has said First can't afford it and will go bust (well, he may not have said that but everyone else has because of his 'fears' in the media even before the announcement was made).

He must surely have to prove that they can't run the franchise, not just imply it? He might be right, or First might be pretty sure they can run things no matter what. I am not even sure how anyone could prove or disprove this, or how you would stop this happening every single time from now on.

And isn't it ironic that suddenly a franchise where a TOC pays loads of money to the Government, thus freeing up taxpayers' money, is now a bad thing? I guess what we need are more franchises, like VT, where the taxpayer funds the company, to make it worthwhile for big name brands to get involved.
 

PR1Berske

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A judicial review would be completely pointless, counter-productive and hideously expensive. Little wonder that both Branson and his apparent new friends in Labour are going for it !

Whilst I have some personal misgivings towards First (being a long suffering TransPennine Express passenger), I recognise that the franchise has now gone to them, under the processes available to DfT at this time, and there's not much to be done other than drag the tax payer and half a government department through the courts.

Greening isn't burying her head in the sand - she's carrying on as the rules and regulations of the franchising process permit her to do!
 

ivanhoe

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This is typical behaviour from Companies who have lost a deal but wish to be seen to be coming out as the victim. Virgin is getting a shed load of publicity at very little cost. It's mobilising it's odious friends such as Stephen Fry and the Essex kitchen hand who are using their own publicity machines via social network sites. I absolutely despair at the fact that over 100,000 desperadoes have joined in the game.
First come out of this debacle with commendable integity by refusing to get into a continuing slanging match in spite of the Virgin attacks.

I cannot wait for this sham of an organisation to be out of the Railways. I do obviously have sympathy for railway staff whose jobs are at risk but the same jobs would have been at risk if Virgin had won. This franchise is simply not a continuation of the current franchise but a whole new ball game. Perhaps the West Coast needs a change to meet the new challenges.
 

tbtc

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I wonder what everyone would be saying if Abellio or Keolis had won.

Good point. They've been forgotten about here.

It'd be interesting to know what Virgin/ Stagecoach's planned profit from the WCML franchise was (is this comparable with the difference between their premium and First's premium?)...
 

Zoe

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Good point. They've been forgotten about here.
If it ended up going to a retender, could they just invite First and Virgin to bid or would they have to consider bids from all four parties that were invited to bid?
 

RPI

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If it ended up going to a retender, could they just invite First and Virgin to bid or would they have to consider bids from all four parties that were invited to bid?

Well it would be funny as hell if Virgin weren't allowed to bid lol.
 

Zoe

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Well it would be funny as hell if Virgin weren't allowed to bid lol.
I wasn't suggesting Virgin wouldn't be allowed to bid, only asking if the other two parties would have to be considered in addition to First and Virgin. If it was to go right back to the OJEU notice stage though the shortlist could change but I'm not sure it would have to go back that far.
 

SkinnyDave

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Branson did have quote of the day though!
When asked if it was reviewed would and the decision stood would he accept the decision
"yes we would bow out gracefully... I have spaceships to launch"

Found that mildly amusing
 

Solent&Wessex

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If it ended up going to a retender, could they just invite First and Virgin to bid or would they have to consider bids from all four parties that were invited to bid?

And then what would happen? Why, with a re-tender do we think the tenders offered will be any different? If Virgin bids more then a) it runs against their argument that it is unaffordable, or b) First then get their lawyers on the case and put in a complaint that the process wasn't handled correctly and then we are back to square one.

No, as long as the result has been decided on the scoring system which would have been outlined to the bidders earlier in the process, then I cannot see how anyone can complain about the result. People may have gripe about the process as a whole, but to start changing the decision making process at this stage would be ludicrous and would cost an absolute fortune, and cause chaos for the other franchises currently part way or about to start the process.

If the companies concerned don't like the scoring process then work to get it changed before you start bidding, or just don't bid at all - don't throw a tantrum when the result doesn't go your way.

I am pretty sure that there hasn't been a procedural error - if there had been I'm sure we would have heard about it by now.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
By the way, not sure if it has been posted before, but there was a fairly balanced talk about it on Radio 2 today - starts at 07:00. http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b01m2v9l/
 

AndrewP

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This whole situation is getting out of hand.

Branson is acting like a spoiled child who has not got what he wanted.

The Labour party is latching on to this so they can be seen trying to look good even if all it does is confirm a lack of principles (Maria Eagles - you are being so silly!) as they are contradicting both what they did in power and an open tender subject to competition law.

Virgin has done a decent job in the past and deserve credit but this does not necessarily mean they are the best option going forward.
 

Ferret

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If Virgin using top lawyers to mount legal challenge, then I would expect them to succeed, u only have to see how celebrities get off with various things, to see that money can buy u anything, if e petition and mp's won't stop Greening from burying her head in the sand and pushing on, then fair do to Virgin for mounting legal challenge, wish them luck.

Gibber. Any legal challenge is a waste of time and money. The DfT are not going to change their minds now, and what basis is there for a legal challenge?!
 

6Gman

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Branson did have quote of the day though!
When asked if it was reviewed would and the decision stood would he accept the decision
"yes we would bow out gracefully... I have spaceships to launch"

Found that mildly amusing

Especially if he was aboard one!

:D
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
I'm scratching my head trying to work out what reasonable grounds Labour have here.

"It's not been explained to MP's who's constituencies are affected": Is it normally? Why is the WCML franchise different? Was that an issue when GA were awarded their franchise? And the dozens awarded under Labour?

"It was announced during the parliamentary recess": Why is this a problem, since franchises have never been debated in parliament before?

First "have not finished a contract on the Great Western": Yes, they did - they just didn't take up the option of a further three years (the option that was created under Labour).

This franchise will last for three parliaments: So, what, Labour are wanting five year franchises?

"It's difficult to make proper judgements": It's not for Labour or any other MPs to make judgements

There's suggestion that a short delay wouldn't be much of an issue, given the long length of the franchise: But with hundreds(?) of staff on fixed term contracts that expire in December then how would you deal with that? First need to get their feet under the table so that they can start offering longer term contracts to these staff. Postpone the decision another month or two (because, lets be honest, it's going to take more than a few days for Branson's PR machine to squeeze all they can out of this process) and suddenly we are in danger of losing these people - to be fair to them, they are more likely to walk away to another job if a new WCML franchise isn't likely to get signed sooner.

This is weak by Labour - stirring things up to court popular opinion, rather than acting on real principles.

An extremely good summary!
 

Ferret

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Damaging times - tonight's Shropshire Stars main headline was "county rail link at risk". Its bad for the railway.

Well, it'll only be bad for the railway if Justine Greening bottles out and caves in to Virgin's nonsense, or if First 'do a NatEx'.
 

jon0844

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Branson did have quote of the day though!
When asked if it was reviewed would and the decision stood would he accept the decision
"yes we would bow out gracefully... I have spaceships to launch"

He does realise that Neil Armstrong was the First man on the moon?!

Virgin has done a decent job in the past and deserve credit but this does not necessarily mean they are the best option going forward.

Why doesn't Virgin simply shut up, stop moaning and get on with putting in a killer bid for the ECML - the line it surely wanted all along anyway? It will be getting brand new trains and can try and use its popularity to try and win that (oh God, imagine this same fuss all happening again!).
 
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Zoe

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Back in 1991 Westcountry won the ITV franchise for the South West. The incumbent (TSW) legally challenged the decision and it went all the way to the House of Lords and even though the decision went in favour of Westcountry in the end, the signing was delayed. Even though Virgin may not get the end result changed, the franchise signing could be significantly delayed.
 

Gareth Marston

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Well, it'll only be bad for the railway if Justine Greening bottles out and caves in to Virgin's nonsense, or if First 'do a NatEx'.

Looking at it from the general public's perspective- the perception will be higher fares and higher fares with worse service- whether true or not. The damage is already done.
 

Solent&Wessex

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Back in 1991 Westcountry won the ITV franchise for the South West. The incumbent (TSW) legally challenged the decision and it went all the way to the House of Lords and even though the decision went in favour of Westcountry in the end, the signing was delayed. Even though Virgin may not get the end result changed, the franchise signing could be significantly delayed.

But it didn't delay the starting of the franchise though - TSW still handed over to Westcountry at midnight on 31/12/92. The timescales involved with that were much longer - here there are only months till the new franchise starts and any delay will (no matter what Beardie says) cause some unnecessary cost.
 

Rich McLean

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If there is a review, I would imagine DOR will take over in December, while a througher investigation is carried out on the whole system. If the system proves to be ok, first will get it at a later date, if not, it will go out to tender again, using an improved system for selecting the best bid
 

tbtc

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Looking at it from the general public's perspective- the perception will be higher fares and higher fares with worse service- whether true or not. The damage is already done.

I fear you are right. This is going to be trotted out as an excuse every time something goes wrong or a price goes up etc

Virgin's bleating has set the railway back
 

jon0844

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"Sir Richard Branson's hopes of clinging on to the west coast rail franchise are fading as the government prepares to formally strip Virgin Trains of the London-Glasgow route."

That reads as if the Government has simply terminated Virgin's contract and put First in charge!

Virgin automatically ceases to run the WCML in December.

Terrible journalism right there.
 

Wath Yard

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Although FirstGroup and Tim O'Toole have been pretty restrained and dignified, some of their comments have been pure quality. From the Guardian article:

"This company is going up against an organisation whose core competency is publicity and PR. And they would be a formidable opponent if that was the only criteria."

Just a pity most of the media ignore him. No beard and the wrong accent I suppose.
 

Ferret

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I quite liked the quote from the Minister who said something along the lines of 'we note the offer made by Virgin through the press'. Cutting! In other words, you didn't come to us directly with that offer, so you're clearly courting public opinion, or put another way - making a stunt.
 
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