He says FirstGroup is unlikely to be able to make a profit and the line will end up being run by the government, who will not be able to provide the level of services passengers deserve.

Virgin Trains has run for the line for 15 years, but the Department for Transport awarded the contract to FirstGroup after the company made an offer of between £6.5bn amd £7.bn to operate the line. Virgin bid between £5.5bn and £6bn.

“[Our] achievements have counted for little – as this is the fourth time that we have been outbid in a rail tender,” Branson wrote on his blog.

“On the past three occasions, the winning operator has come nowhere close to delivering their promised plans and revenue, and has let the public and country down dramatically.

“In the case of the East Coast Main line, both winners – GNER and National Express – over-promised in order to win the franchise and spectacularly ran into financial difficulties in trying to deliver their plans.

“The East Coast is still in Government ownership and its service is outdated and underinvested, costing passengers and the country dearly as a result.

He pulled no punches when describing what he thought of the Department of Transport’s decision.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” Branson wrote. “When will the Department for Transport learn?”

FirstGroup’s plans for the network include:

• A major refurbishment of Pendolino and Voyager trains, including quicker WiFi
• 11 new 125mph six-car electric trains for Birmingham to Scotland services
• Reducing Standard Anytime fares by 15pc, on average
• Improving journey times by 15 minutes for trains between London and Glasgow
• New direct services from London to Blackpool, Telford, Shrewsbury and Bolton