Virgin Trains has been voted Britain's favourite rail company by customers for the second time in the last three years, after the destination of the award was decided by customers - rather than a formal judging panel.
The red liveried train company was presented at London's Park Lane Grosvenor House Hotel with the coveted Favourite Rail Operator award at the Globe Travel awards ceremony. These cover and recognise excellence among international hotel groups, travel operators and package holiday companies.
Readers of Mail Newspapers' TravelMail section voted for the award and placed Virgin Trains ahead of luxury charter train promoters like Orient Express as in 2010 when Virgin Trains also won the award.
The award comes as Virgin Trains was also named the leading long-distance franchise operator in the independent National Passenger Survey (NPS), run by passenger watchdog Passenger Focus. This is perfectly timed as the refranchising process is currently underway for the West Coast Main Line franchise.
Tony Collins, Virgin Trains Chief Executive Officer, said, 'This award and the NPS figures are a result of our customers' views - the most valuable opinion of all. I am very proud that the hard work of our staff is recognised by customers and we will endeavour to maintain and improve those standards.'
Virgin Trains has once again topped the performance league among companies operating long-distance rail franchises. The rail watchdog Passenger Focus carries out large-scale independent research across the industry twice a year. For the fifth successive survey, Virgin Trains was ranked top of long-distance franchised operators, with 89% of passengers ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the overall service they received.
Virgin Trains leads the franchised long-distance operators in many of the 33 categories judged by customers and is ahead of its sector average in 27.
Virgin Trains significantly outscores average scores of long-distance operators in the following areas - frequency of trains; value for money; train cleanliness; ease of getting on/off trains; dealing with delays; and connections with other forms of public transport.
In addition, customers have given a massive thumbs-up to a major investment programme in car parks, in partnership with the Department for Transport and Network Rail, with a 13 percentage point increase in satisfaction with car parking facilities.
Virgin Trains’ Chief Executive Officer, Tony Collins said: “We recently achieved record numbers of customers, with more than 30million people travelling with us last year, double the number of six years ago. But the key to retaining those customers - and attracting more - is making sure they are satisfied.
These figures show that we continue to lead in most areas of our business, by focussing on customer service and offering a service that is second to none among the long-distance franchise operators.
“However, we are certainly not complacent and there is still work to do to improve some scores. Satisfaction about punctuality has dipped, following a series of infrastructure problems during the summer and autumn and we have made clear to Network Rail that these need improvement.”
The Office of Rail Regulation has issued Network Rail an enforcement notice to bring improvements in punctuality on long-distance services, including on Virgin Trains’ services.
Virgin Trains is the brand name of Virgin Rail Group (VRG), which is owned 51 percent by Virgin Group and 49 percent by Stagecoach. They have operated the West Coast passenger train franchise since 1997.
The current franchise was due to run until 31 March 2012, but the Department for Transport announced on 27 October 2011 that it would be extended until 8 December 2012. We have been short-listed for the new franchise that will start on 9 December 2012 and run until 31 March 2026, with an option to be extended by up to 20 months.