by Phil Marsh

42 extra services a week to create half hourly service on the route of the Flying Scotsman from May

Published: 17th February 2016

Virgin scores well in ‘Which’ passenger survey

Virgin Trains East Coast plans more trains between Edinburgh and London to give a virtually half-hourly service.

And yet there were some people back in the “Beeching era” in the 1960s who thought that passenger numbers between the capitals of Scotland and England would only justify one daytime train each way. In fact, at one time the East Coast Main Line was due to be “downgraded” north of Newcastle.

More trains from May

The announcement by Virgin that it will run more trains from May this year follows significant demand for rail travel between the capital cities. In a statement the company said: “More than a million people travel on Virgin Trains’ Edinburgh-London services per year and the route already enjoys a half-hourly frequency at peak times.”

Virgin said that it had been given permission to run 42 new services a week from 16 May, boosting seat capacity by 22,000 a week on the route, an increase of almost a third. There would be four new train services in each direction each weekday, Mondays to Fridays, and two additional services in total on Sundays.

Booking horizons were being extended to 24 weeks instead of the previous 12 weeks and additional low-price tickets would be offered. Virgin said that it expects an upsurge in demand for rail travel across the Border between Scotland and England.

They said;

David Horne, the managing director of Virgin Trains East Coast, said: “This is a major boost for our customers travelling between Edinburgh and London who will be able to catch a train every half-hour for most of the day. We have seen how increasing capacity and frequency adds to the popularity of train travel and we’re confident that customers will respond positively to these changes”

Mr Horne added: “Feedback on our new train interiors, many of which have been fitted out at Craigentinny depot in Edinburgh, has been incredibly positive and customers are telling us they love the fresh, new look.”

Derek Mackay MSP, Scotland’s Minister for Transport and Islands, said: “I welcome these enhanced timetables, the greater connectivity they offer between Scotland and the south east of England and the benefits that they will bring to the rail passenger experience and economies of locations along the route.”

Claire Perry MP, the UK’s Rail Minister, said: “This is welcome news for passengers travelling between Edinburgh and London and demonstrates that Virgin Trains are delivering on their commitment to bring extra services and seats to this important route.”

She added that the increased number of Scottish services proved that the franchise is delivering “real improvements for passengers”.

Stagecoach or Virgin?

Virgin Trains East Coast is a consortium of Stagecoach Group and Virgin, took on the new InterCity East Coast franchise in March last year. Virgin has just a 10% stake while Stagecoach the majority 90%.

Which annual survey votes Virgin Trains s the top long distance franchised operator in the UK.

Consumer organisation ‘Which’ has just announced that after a survey of nearly 7,000 rail passengers, both Virgin Trains franchises were awarded either four or five stars for availability of seating, cleanliness of carriages, overall condition of the train, train reliability, train frequency and punctuality.

They said:

Patrick McCall, Co-Chairman of Virgin Trains said:

"We're delighted by these results. The two Virgin Trains franchises have been recognised as the top two long distance franchised operators – that’s a testament to our strategy of putting customers at the heart of everything we do.

Mixed messages?

During the closure of the West Coast Main Line (WCML) near Lockerbie, Virgin Trains refused to allow their first class passengers access to the first class Lounge at Kings Cross.

Virgin Trains is the brand name of Virgin Rail Group owned by Virgin Group (51%) and Stagecoach (49%). Virgin won the WCML franchise in 1997 and says it has introduced over 70 new trains (Pendolinos and Voyagers) at a cost of £1.5 billion. This was the cost of the trains purchased by the Rolling Stock companies and leased by Virgin rather than the implied wording that Virgin has purchased the trains outright.

Tickets for all Virgin services can be purchased from Redspottedhanky in advance offering some huge savings against purchasing on the day of travel.

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