Sir Richard Branson has denied claims made by the Transport Secretary that he only raised concerns over the rail franchising system after Virgin lost the bid to continue running the West Coast Main Line.

In a letter to the Financial Times, the Virgin boss said he has been in contact with the Department for Transport for "more than two years" over the process.

Last month the Government announced that Virgin Trains had lost out to FirstGroup in the bidding war to run a new 13-year franchise of the line from December.

Justine Greening said last week the process had been "fair and well-established", and the FT reported she said Virgin "raised no concerns with [the] process until it emerged that they had lost the bid".

Sir Richard wrote: "The truth is we did and have been in dialogue with the Department for Transport for more than two years on the issues around the invitation to tender.

"Furthermore, we had expressed our views to the Conservatives in several meetings while they were in opposition.

"In particular, we focused on the assessment and deliverability of risks involved in such long and volatile franchises, as well as seeking assurances on our long held view that bids were typically won by aggressive revenue commitments from bidders relying on good spreadsheet skills rather than good rail business sense."