Virgin instructs Blackstone and 11KBW silks for West Coast contract battle

Blackstone Chambers’ Michael Beloff QC and 11KBW’s Nigel Giffin QC have been instructed to lead Virgin Rail Group’s High Court action against the Department for Transport (DfT) after the contractor missed out on the bid to renew its control of the West Coast Main Line franchise.


Michael Beloff QC
Michael Beloff QC

Herbert Smith partner Nusrat Zar is leading the team acting for Virgin and will face Eversheds partners Mark Rhys-Jones and Nicola Williams, who have instructed Monckton Chambers’ Michael Bowsher QC for the DfT.

The nature of the claim is as yet unknown, but it is understood that the aim will be to force the Government to review its decision to hand control of the network to FirstGroup. The legal challenge came just hours before the DfT was due to hand control of the network to FirstGroup.

Virgin boss Richard Branson has engaged in a war of words with the Government over the decision to hand the contract to FirstGroup, branding it “insane”.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said that the Government would push on with the deal, despite the complaints about the tender process.

Virgin was advised by Herbert Smith on the tender while Burges Salmon advised longstanding client FirstGroup on the deal (15 August 2012). Eversheds advised the Department for Transport (DfT) on the tender process, fielding rail partner Anne Harris.