Hmm... Virgin Trains Has Come Up With A Clever Way Of Keeping Its Franchise

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 27 months ago
Hmm... Virgin Trains Has Come Up With A Clever Way Of Keeping Its Franchise
A Virgin train in Liverpool. Soon to be a thing of the past...or is it? Image: Shutterstock

Virgin Trains has already frittered away its East Coast franchise, and is being turfed out of its West Coast franchise in 2020. But it hasn't given up just yet.

Using 'open access', the company — which is 49% owned by Stagecoach — has applied to the rail regulator to run a new hourly service between London and Liverpool. That would mean 24 services per day between London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street, likely calling at Lichfield, Tamworth, Nuneaton and Liverpool South Parkway.

If granted, the service would commence in May 2021 — a little over a year after Virgin loses its current franchise.

But hang on, didn't Virgin lose its franchises for a reason? Yes it did; among other reasons because it was failing to keep up repayments, and according to the Department for Transport, "repeatedly ignored established rules". Then again, this initiative would officially be separate to Virgin's current West Coast operation. Confusing, no?.

Virgin: plucky, isn't it? Image: Shutterstock

Anyway, what's different with this proposed new service? Virgin says that every ticket would be guaranteed to be at least 10% cheaper than equivalent tickets offered by rail competitors. Each ticket, it says, would also come with a guaranteed seat (as a customer who's had to stand all the way from Liverpool to London, that's welcome news — but does smack of 'too little too late').

Virgin goes on to say that passengers who can't get a seat will get a full refund... which kind of suggests there isn't always a guaranteed seat. OK then.

Does Virgin deserve another chance? Alas, passengers don't get a say; this is one for the rail regulator to decide.

Last Updated 12 June 2019