Shed no tears for Richard Branson over Virgin trains losing the West Coast Main Line franchise. He’s made enough money at the taxpayers’ expense over the last fifteen years. It was Virgin who insisted on a restriction of competition clause to keep rivals off their patch, a clause that was used to stop open access operator Wrexham and Shropshire picking up passengers for London at Birmingham New Street. Anyone remember the alleged benefits of competition being part of the rationale for privatisation? But he has a point. First Group have surely overbid and they have a track record (no pun intended) of walking away from contracts. The question is not Virgin v First Group or anybody else. It is that the privatised, franchise based rail system set up in 1993 and tinkered with regularly since doesn’t work. Ever since the Liverpool and Manchester opened as a vertically integrated railway in 1830 (in contrast to the earlier Stockton and Darlington which owned the track and charged others to use it) it has been obvious that is the only sensible way to run a railway. Others happily share my view on this.