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Sunday, August 26, 2012


it shouldn't come as a surprise that sir richard branson isn't gracious in defeat.
virgin and stagecoach have lost out on the west coast line railway. during their tenure of the line virgin increased the number of passengers and improved the service.
there was a time when i was a frequent user of virgin's service - catching the train up to runcorn on a sunday evening and a return on thursday night. it wasn't a cheap service, there were times when it was overcrowded (but then that is what happens when you have several empty first class carriages). all in all it did what it said it would do and mostly did it well.

the conservatives like to throw around buzz words - when mrs. thatcher was in the throes of privatisation orgasms the words were efficiency and economical. the current tory lot, under david cameron, love the sound of the word 'choice'.
funny thing is that the privatised rail service has been heavily subsidised - so basically we have been paying large companies money in order to allow them to make a profit. a profit that they pay out as a dividend to their shareholders while going cap in hand to the government for more subsidies in order to invest in their service (used to be a time when capitalists would invest their profit, but why would you do that when you can get money from the government - as long as you both invoke the entrepreneurial as shown by entrepreneurs then it is ok to use public money to make private companies wealthy).
as for choice the very nature of the railways makes this impractical. - unless i wanted to make some serious detours the only way i was getting to runcorn was on a virgin train.
so much for efficiency, economical and choice.

the process of privatisation was pretty cack handed.
one of the results of this is the franchise system and the bidding that takes place every so many years.

the west cost line was up for bidding.
firstgroup made a better bid - basically they say they will pay the government more for the service - and they are promising a heap of service improvements.
based on that the government did what any sensible government would do - agreed that firstgroup could have the franchise for the next 13 years.

oh no!
sir richard was not best pleased. "outrageous, unjust and simply wrong". he says.
he also claims that based on their bid firstgroup will go bust. implying that he is the better and more realistic businessman.

well since losing the bid he has decided to have his airline open up some internal routes between london and manchester, just the extra numbers that heathrow needed. he says it is to provide competition to british airways in the budget arena. the announcement has nothing to do with him losing the west coast line - it is just his way of preventing british airways from having a monopoly in cheap internal flights.

then he is happy to say how that firstgroup will go out of business very very soon.
perhaps they are better at what they do than sir richard is, not that he would admit it. perhaps they have crunched the numbers better and perhaps they are prepared to pay a bit more for the cash cow than sir richard is.

i guess we will just have to wait and see if sir richard's words of doom come true.
or maybe we won't as there is an online petition that has received more than 100,000 signatures that is demanding that virgin get the line again.
in order to let the popular groundswrell grow sir richard has even offered to run the line on a cost basis or 'free' until the review can be held (and found in his favour)., perhaps he should offer to cut his dividends and the amount he gets as a subsidy?

there is a part of me that likes the fact that sir richard is small-minded and petty and doesn't like to lose.

he has listed the help of several celebs in order to get his case heard and for these stars to drive home the point that when it comes to trains on the west coast there can only be the one - and it is him.

lord alan sugar - who has more standing the community now that he is a tv star than he ever did as a businessman. at least he knows a bit about large scale businesses.

then there is jamie oliver. a seemingly very nice mockney chap who by all accounts makes some very good foo. to the best of my knowledge none of his cookery programmes have been stopped while jamie addresses the adoring public with his love and knowledge of trains and their destinations.
i am sure he is a relaible witness.

then there is mo farah. a bloke who has just won two gold medals, who understands a thing or two about running on the track, just the wrong sort of track. given all we heard about mo's great sacrifice to win the gold medal: moving to live in the usa you have to wonder just how much he knows about the rail system here. perhaps what he brings to the table is invaluable knowledge of how the american train system works.
or it could be that as mo is getting paid to appear in virgin's broadband ads along with usain bolt that he has decided to do a solid for sir richard and put his name to the campaign. all very scratch my back and i scratch yours.
has nothing to do with running a railway but it does show that sir richard has better frineds. 

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