Essentially the joint venture between Stagecoach and Richard Branson’s Virgin that had won the franchise to run the line from 2015 to 2023 found it had overbid and wanted out of the deal. Grayling stepped in and allowed them to pull the plug without the companies having to pay around £2bn that was payable for the final years. Adonis was outraged.
“The manner of doing so, was in my view, deplorable,” says Adonis. “He used some smokescreen about reopening closed Beeching lines and bringing Thomas the Tank Engine back to East Grinstead [to conceal what he was really doing]. He didn’t spell out that what this meant was that the companies were going to be excused from making £2bn worth of payments to the government.”
The result, Adonis says, is that “there is going to be a massive loss to the taxpayer as a result of this”.
Adonis calls the move a “scandal” because it is, he argues, taxpayers who will be left to pick up the bill, and rail users who will be hit with still higher fares.
Because the taxpayer, in the form of Network Rail, has fucked up.