If Virgin Rail had not moved for a judicial review into the award to First Group of the West Coast Main Line franchise the public would probably have remained unaware that the Department for Transport badly miscalculated after the assurances of the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, and his predecessor, the recently shunted to International Development, Justine Greening, that the procedure was 'robust'. So three cheers for Sir Richard Branson.
Sir Richard's first brush (pun intended) with the Tory Party was when Mrs Thatcher appointed him Litter Tsar charged with keeping Britain tidy, presumably on the assumption that he was 'one of us'. To be 'wet' in a Thatcher government was not looked upon kindly, a situation not lost on civil servants who would have avoided giving ministers advice they did not want to hear, a habit that appears to have lingered on. But if things went wrong the minister carried the can. No longer. Patrick McLoughlin said "he was angry" because the fault lay "only and squarely within the Department for Transport". - Three civil servants have been suspended, the politicians carry on regardless, in Ms Greening's case now using her accountancy skills for the benefit of the poor in the Third World, or not!
My days of business travel are long gone but how easy it was in those bygone days to decide what time I needed to arrive at my destination and simply buy a ticket at the station ticket office. Hearing of people's current experiences, I tried looking on-line to see how I would go about booking a return ticket from Manchester to London this coming Friday. Perhaps it is my age but I might as well have been buying an air-line ticket. Eventually I discovered that prices varied between £74.20 and £296 for a Second Class return with a whopping £423 for First Class travel. Traveling a greater distance of 346km from Paris to London compared with the 267km from Manchester by Eurostar would cost between 117 and 217 Euros (between £94 and £174 and a flexible business rate of £249. Traveling a similar distance of 270km from Paris to Brugge and back on a Friday would cost between 87 Euros and just 169 Euros for flexible First Class travel (between £70 and £136). Ah, the joys of rail privatisation!