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Branson calls on prime minister to intervene in West Coast rail deal

Sir Richard Branson has called on prime minister David Cameron to intervene in the row over the new West Coast Main Line franchise which has been awarded to FirstGroup.

Branson said he would effectively run the route for free during any delay in awarding the franchise caused by any review of the award.

The Virgin Group boss told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that a delay was needed because Cameron and chancellor George Osborne are away on their holidays.

“I think that the person that can really intervene to try to get some sense into the Department for Transport (DfT) is the prime minister and the prime minister is currently on holiday, the chancellor is on holiday and we would like things delayed by a month or so.”

“If, as a result of that, it means that the handover is delayed we would obviously be very happy to run it on a not for profit basis,” he said.

FirstGroup says it will bring in key improvements for passengers but critics fear it will not be able to afford the £5.5bn it is paying for the 13 year franchise. More than 100,000 members of the public have also signed an online petition against the decision.

Branson has already claimed that FirstGroup’s bid will lead to “almost certain bankruptcy”.

But the DfT said the bidding process was fair and insisted it would go ahead with the contract.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Running the WCML "for free" and "not for profit" are surely different things, I notice that the BBC reported this in the same way as above. Am I missing something?

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  • I agree that "for free" and "not for profit" are different, but note that Branson said "effectively for free" - this could possibly be taken to mean the same as "not for profit".

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