I should think that at present Branson is trying to buy time. He wanted to win and he hasnt. At the moment it would be very difficult to prove that Firsts 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 wouldnt 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 Firsts 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 dont think its realistic to have each bidders 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. Theyd be against First because their bus was full last Wednesday, or against Branson because they couldnt 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 dont 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.