Branson downbeat on Virgin Trains future after losing last franchise

Virgin Trains: has lost the West Coast line franchise to rival FirstGroup
Virgin Trains: has lost the West Coast line franchise to rival FirstGroup

The future of the Virgin Trains brand looks uncertain after it lost its remaining franchise this morning to rival FirstGroup and Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson cast doubt on whether it would bid for any more rail lines.

Branson took the Virgin brand into rail in 1997, winning the West Coast franchise, which was today (15 August) awarded by the Government to FirstGroup for 13 years and four months, with an option to be extended to 15 years.

First West Coast will take over from Virgin Trains on 9 December, having outbid Virgin with a pledge to pay the Government £5.5bn to run the franchise.

Bids were also submitted by two other parties, Abellio InterCity West Coast Limited – NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen, and Keolis / SNCF West Coast Limited.

In a carefully-worded statement, Branson cast doubt on whether Virgin would bid for another franchise, criticising the Government's track record on awarding tenders to the highest bidder.

He said: "Based on the current flawed system, it is extremely unlikely that we would bid again for a franchise.

"We have made realistic offers for the East Coast twice before, which were rejected by the Department for Transport for completely unrealistic ones and therefore will have to think hard before embarking on another bid.

"This is the fourth time that we have been out-bid in a rail tender. On the past three occasions, the winning operator has come nowhere close to delivering their promised plans and revenue, and has let the public and country down dramatically."

However, a Virgin Trains spokesman claimed it was still possible the company would bid for another franchise, citing the East Coast mainline.

This line is expected to be tendered in January 2013, according to the Department for Transport. It is in temporary Government hands after the state took the franchise back from National Express in 2009.

The Virgin Trains spokesman said it was too early to comment on the future of the brand's marketing department, which is around 20 strong and is led by Annerie Hughes as head of marketing.

The brand works with advertising agency Dare and promotional agency Elvis.

Branson claimed that over the 15 years Virgin has run the West Coast franchise, passenger numbers have more than doubled to 30 million.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage