Why do I feel instinctively uneasy about Virgin’s Richard Branson losing the West Coast rail franchise?
Is it because he is a well-known entrepreneurial face, giving personality to any brand he runs?
Is it because First Group have no such personality?
Is it because the Virgin services I have used to Birmingham, Manchester and beyond offered a joie de vivre and style that made the travelling experience exciting and fun?
Is it because Virgin Trains had a 91% customer satisfaction rating, compared to 72% for First Group on the Great Western?
Is it because the Government has ignored customer feedback in its assessment?
Is it because Virgin has twice lost bids for rail franchises that resulted in the winners going bust?
Is it because Virgin seems to have a good track record of assessing what a franchise is worth?
Is it because I worry that First Group has over bid and will be forced to quit before the franchise expires, with the service bailed out by the taxpayer?
Is it because I suspect Virgin would have launched the new services promised by First if it thought they would work - and decided they wouldn’t?
Is it because the experience has so bruised Virgin that - disappointingly for passengers - it will no longer enter further rail franchising bids while the existing flawed system remains?
Is it because the Government seems so obsessed with money that it appears to have fallen over backwards to find reasons to accept the highest bid, irrespective of other major considerations such as service quality and customer experience?
Is it because, linked to this week’s extortionate rise in rail fares and season tickets, this Government is forcing rail travel to be the preserve of the rich and the captive commuter?
is it because rail fares are higher in this country than almost anywhere else, yet is a form of transport that is good for the environment and should be subsidised without guilt?
Is it because public transport should be encouraged by lower, not higher fares, because it contributes to economic growth - the Government’s stated aim - and makes us a more civilised society?
And finally, will there be as much customer loyalty and regret if Southeastern loses its own franchise battle? The lesson for our operator from the unsatisfactory Virgin decision is that under this government to the highest bidder goes the spoils, and that past performance counts for nothing.