There will doubtless be much back-slapping among bosses at FirstGroup after they outbid Virgin Rail to take over the West Coast mainline franchise.
But when the celebrations have died down, the company faces a serious challenge in living up to the pledges it made as it fought for the right to run the key route between Birmingham and London.
FirstGroup’s successful £5.5 billion bid for the franchise has already sparked raised eyebrows from some analysts who fear the sum is too high.
Sir Richard Branson, admittedly speaking as a losing contender, said Virgin would never have bid at such a level because of the risk of “almost certain bankruptcy”.
Passenger groups have asked how pledges of service improvements and fare reductions can be simultaneously met, while the RMT transport union claimed FirstGroup’s bid was linked to “massive cuts to jobs and services and huge increases in fares”.
But all of those concerns count for little now that the deed is done.
FirstGroup has promised to deliver “value for money for taxpayers by returning premiums to the Government underpinned by sustainable growth in passenger numbers and revenues from the utilisation of significant available capacity”.
And it can only be right that the company is given every opportunity to deliver on its words over the 13-year life of its franchise.
For passenger levels will be the ultimate proof of whether or not FirstGroup has lived up to its commitments.
It must never be forgotten that travellers have had no hand in the change of service provider but will be the first casualties of any decline in standards.
Rail passengers are already facing price hikes of more than six per cent in the New Year after last month’s Retail Prices Index, used to calculate fare increases, hit 3.2 per cent.
They would not easily forgive or forget being hit in the pocket once more, regardless of which organisation had won control of the West Coast line.
For our part, the Birmingham Post will be keeping a close eye on FirstGroup’s performance over the coming months and years.
The West Coast route is vital to the region’s business community and service levels must never be derailed.