What the company didn't know what what had gone on at DaFT, the Department for Transport.
Here is a transcript of a key meeting between two senior officials.
Neither do I, Caldicott. These train chappies want to spend lots of pennies putting up electric string all over the place.
But the politicians have said they can do it.
Mavis here has typed a note from the PM approving it.
What on earth can we do, Charters?
Well, I do have a plan, Caldicott. If we can get the chaps in Procurement to play ball, that is.
There's not much time, Charters ...
... the tea trolley will be here soon.
But consider this Caldicott; if we can persuade the train companies to buy trains that run on electricity OR diesel ...
Sounds expensive, but carry on, old boy.
Then, when they have all bought these clever trains ...
I think I see your cunning plan, Charters.
They won't need the electric wires, Caldicott. They can run under the wires that we've got , then change to diesel when the wires run out.
What a spiffing wheeze. I'll get my people to write a report which says trains with two sorts of engine inside are super and smashing.
We'll get those Hitachi fellahs to build a factory and give us a good deal; then when everyone has their trains on order ...
And can't back out of the contracts ...
We'll cancel all the electrification projects.
Not "cancel", Charters, "defer". It sounds less final.
But it will be final, won't it Caldicott? Well done that man.
Our "Os" are a certainty next January.
Well done both of us! But "Cs", surely, Charters?
We'll ask Mavis to put us on the PM's list. The old dragon will never notice a couple of extra names.
Of course, the first First activity on winning the franchise is to come up with a totally unnecessary new livery and logo. Look it's got a spiky star.
Three tranches of new trains have been ordered.
To satisfy Charters and Caldicott some bi-modes are on the way. They will be like those due on the Great Western and East Coast lines.
This might mean that, over the hilly and curvaceous route, the new trains will have less power than the 185 diesels that form the mainstay of services today.
Well done Charters and Caldicott!
Next we look at orders for the bit of Trans Pennine which goes nowhere near the Pennines.
For this service new five-car electric trains have been ordered.
CAF are also building five-car sets of coaches, dubbed Mark 5A.
They will work as 5+1 push-pull units. The loco will be semi-permanently coupled to the coaches to form a train which is either pushed or pulled along the track. These will be used between Liverpool and Newcastle and, obviously, won't need electric string although they will run under the wires. First say these trains will have an inter-city ambiance.
It all seems a bit of a mess. Changes in Government policy on electrification have, effectively, destroyed First's business plan and the basis on which the same Government accepted their bid for the franchise.
Not a good advert for Privatisation, for Government Policy or for Franchising. the MPs are right!.