There's yet another aspect to this. Virgin have submitted a proposal to the Williams review for rail paths to be allocated in bundles to TOCs rather than in a franchise monopoly as now. Similar to how Italo operates in Italy, with a batch of services in competition with Trenitalia, on the same routes. It's also how long distance services in France are supposed to open up. Virgin may have its eye on HS2 services in competition with WCP, rather than on the congested WCML. Otherwise, why would SNCF be interested? It would be a real conundrum for ORR and DfT with a viable and experienced operator bidding to run non-franchised services on HS2. In the meantime, it throws the current competition into chaos!