Sir Richard Branson could lose his West Coast Main Line rail franchise this week, with a transport union warning that the switch in ownership could mean higher fares, poorer services and job losses.
The Government is due to announce the winner of the bidding for a new West Coast franchise, which includes Birmingham New Street’s link with London Euston, in the next few days.
It is thought that Sir Richard's company Virgin Trains has lost out to transport giant FirstGroup in the battle to operate the London to Scotland line on which tilting, high-speed Pendolino trains run.
The Government announcement comes as the rail industry comes to terms with the need to comply with cost-cutting recommendations made in a Whitehall-commissioned report by Sir Roy McNulty.
The RMT transport union is opposed to the McNulty views and very concerned about the West Coast situation.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "Whoever wins the West Coast route next week, and all the signs point to FirstGroup, they should be left in no doubt that we will mount a massive industrial, political and public campaign to stop any attacks on our members' jobs and the services that they provide to the travelling public.
"From leaked figures it is clear that this franchise is being let on pure McNulty terms with a gold-plated, 12-year contract linked to massive cuts to jobs and passenger services and huge increases in fares as the winning bidder battles to extract every penny that they can in profit."
He went on: "We will work with MPs and communities along the West Coast route to stop the savage assault on staffing levels and budgets that we expect to be at the core of this new franchise arrangement.
"The new West Coast deal is an exercise in casino franchising that lays bare the whole sordid enterprise which is rail privatisation.
"Companies promise the earth, jack up fares and slash jobs and services in a drive for profits and if the numbers don't stack up they throw back the keys and expect the public sector to pick up the pieces."