Virgin Trains Sets Out Legacy as it Prepares to Exit Rail Industry

Virgin Trains Class 390 Pendolino

Virgin Trains will hand over to First Trenitalia on December 8th, ending its 22-year existence in the UK rail industry.

The company is going out in style, by outlining the impact that Virgin Trains has had since it became the first operator of the West Coast franchise in 1997.

One of the major highlights for Virgin Trains is the transfer from air travel to rail, citing in the 12 months to July 2019, 29% of passengers chose to travel with Virgin Trains as opposed to flying between Glasgow and London, the UK’s second-busiest domestic air route.

The out-going operator highlighted that their success in convincing people to choose train over plane has pushed up rail’s overall market share relative to airlines on total journeys between Glasgow/Edinburgh and London, which increased from 34% to a new record of 35% in the 12 months to July 2019.

Phil Whittingham, Managing Director of Virgin Trains, said: “The number of people choosing train over plane is testament to the investment and improvement it has made in Anglo-Scottish services over the last two decades. This growth is critical in supporting Scotland’s economy and helping achieve government targets to de-carbonise transport and achieve net zero emissions.”

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, added: “The current level of air travel is incompatible with the Climate Emergency so it’s heartening to hear that rail is growing its market share over air for travel between between Central Scotland and London. Comparable distances across Europe use rail rather than air as the dominant mode of transport, so it is overdue for Scotland to take action to cut the excessive volume of flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London. Rail produces a fifth of the climate emissions that comes from air travel. It’s definitely the greenest option for Anglo-Scottish travel.”

Virgin’s 22-Year Reign Benchmarks

Virgin trains is quite rightly using the lead-up to it’s exit, to highlight the 22 years of investment and improvement in Anglo-Scottish services by Virgin Trains.

Its tenure has seen the introduction of tilting Pendolino trains, a new focus on customer service and the launch of the revolutionary Virgin High Frequency timetable a decade ago which delivered faster, more frequent services to Scotland.

The latest surge in passenger numbers comes two years after Virgin introduced its industry-leading on-board entertainment service, BEAM, and became the first operator to deliver automatic repayment for delays.