Just after midnight the news came down that the new West Coast rail franchise has been cancelled due to “flaws” in the bidding process. The entire process will have to be restarted, costing taxpayers tens of millions of pounds.
Richard Branson is thrilled, as are many customers of Virgin Trains – a company which has inexplicably become very popular since people realised it might be going away for ever.
Myself, I’m not particularly pleased either way. I hold no torch for Virgin (or FirstGroup) – I just want a national rail network that is reliable, comfortable and affordable; a good alternative to polluting cars and planes. The current system delivers this occasionally, but not consistently.
While it’s nice to see the Government admit, finally, that the current franchising system is a mess, I wish more radical solutions would be looked at beyond mere reform. In short, I think we should be looking at renationalisation of the passenger railway network.