As the political storm over the financial collapse of Virgin Trains East Coast rages unabated, reporting in the mass media has confirmed our view that for those outside looking in, the railway industry is impossible to understand. For those inside looking out, it is impossible to explain.
We make that claim with some feeling as the editorial team continues to be distracted by long sessions on the telephone trying to explain to national press and broadcasting journalists the background to the VTEC collapse. Yes, Stagecoach and Virgin were over-optimistic on the prospects for growth. Yes, they have already paid approaching £1 billion in premia since taking over the franchise and are continuing to meet their obligations.
No, it isn’t a ‘bailout’ costing the taxpayer £2 billion, or whatever the latest figure the Labour party is bandying around. Yes, premia will be paid in future. No, they won’t match those in the defunct franchise agreement. And when you get to the reason why, it becomes a case of MEGO – My Eyes Glaze Over.