I love a good conspiracy. I also love making them up, so forgive me this one. Having taken the train up to (for the most part) sunny Lancashire this week with Visit England, those of us with strong stomachs (Pendolinos are a bit like fast boats at times) were feeling pretty pro-Virgin trains. Here’s a photo of wonderful PR Nora Maki to show our enthusiasm:
When we got off the train we saw much of Lancashire with its exceedingly green green grass (and, in this case, tiny ducks):
So arriving at the breakfast table at Mytton Hall on day two and being confronted with the news Virgin Trains was to be no more was really quite shocking.
Why would the man who made trains sexy be banished from our railways?
Is First Great Western sexy? No, no it is not. Will First West Coast be sexy? Unlikely.
Virgin trains were the first to have radio that you could plug your headphones into like you can on a plane. They brought us those lovely slimline Pendolinos. And, most importantly, Virgin has money. FirstGroup has no money. So what’s going on?
Well, after Virgin came to the table in ’97, the DfT felt they’d been ‘robbed’ of millions of pounds and said in response, ‘mark our words you won’t see the end of this.’
And Richard Branson said in response to FirstGroup winning the West Coast route – ‘mark my words, prices will rise.’
So there’s been a feud between the two from the beginning.
Perhaps the Government are going to attempt to let FirstGroup take over all the lines, before neatly buying them all back to take the UK back to a non-privatised way of train travelling. But I have absolutely no idea where they think the money for that is going to come from.
You could compare it to Bristol City Council shutting Ashton Court Festival down because they didn’t control it and people preferred it to the council-run Balloon Fiesta. Or you could call me a liar.