23 Facts About Virgin Trains


Virgin Trains was a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by Virgin Rail Group, a joint venture between Virgin Group and Stagecoach, which operated the InterCity West Coast franchise from 9 March 1997 to 7 December 2019.

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Contract expired on 7 December 2019 and Virgin did not contest losing the franchise after its joint venture partner, Stagecoach, was disqualified due to an invalid bid in April 2019.

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In 2009 Richard Branson launched a campaign to have the next franchise period extended for 20 to 30 years, so that Virgin Trains could spend more on infrastructure and see a return on its investment.

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Virgin Trains had applied for a two-year extension, but this was ruled out by the Department of Transport on legal grounds.

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In October 2011 the Department announced that Virgin Trains had been granted a franchise extension until December 2012.

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The government announced that it would negotiate with Virgin Trains to run the InterCity West Coast franchise for a further 9 to 13 months.

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In December 2012 Virgin Trains was awarded a 23-month management contract to run the franchise until 9 November 2014.

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In July 2013 the Office of Rail Regulation rejected an application by Virgin Trains to operate new services to Shrewsbury and Blackpool North, citing capacity constraints on the West Coast Main Line.

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In December 2018, it was announced that Virgin Trains had been granted a one-year extension until March 2020.

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The final Virgin Trains service was the 21:42 service from London Euston to Wolverhampton arriving at 23:45.

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In May 1998 Virgin Trains introduced two new services from London Euston, to Shrewsbury and to Blackpool North.

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In September 2005, Virgin Trains introduced its first 125 miles per hour timetable following the completion of Stage 1 of the upgrade.

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From January 2009, Virgin Trains gradually rolled out a new "very high frequency" timetable to take advantage of the completed West Coast Main Line upgrade.

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Virgin Trains suffered poor punctuality compared with some other transport operators between 2001 and 2006, according to Office of Rail Regulation statistics.

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Virgin Trains has undertaken a number of projects to increase punctuality, including radio-controlled watches.

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In 1999 Virgin Trains signed a deal to lease forty-four eight-carriage and nine nine-carriage Class 390 Pendolinos built by Alstom.

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Virgin Trains had long been angling for a franchise extension in return for ordering extra carriages for the Class 390 Pendolinos.

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In 2008 Virgin Trains looked at leasing two Class 180 but decided to retain the Mark 3 set.

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Virgin Trains used this set with a Class 90 locomotive hired from Freightliner on a Euston to Crewe service on Fridays only until December 2012.

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On 15 September 2015 it was announced that Virgin Trains were to rename Pendolino 390002 in memory of teenage fundraiser Stephen Sutton.

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On 5 August 2014 Virgin Trains agreed to be the shirt sponsor of Preston North End FC on a two-year deal.

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In November 2019, Virgin Trains submitted an application to the Office of Rail and Road to apply for a license to run trains from Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston.

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However, in March 2020, Virgin Trains withdrew its application for the service, citing uncertainty from the Williams Review of rail not having been published yet.

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