Virgin Trains has celebrated carrying 250 million passengers on its West Coast services - equivalent to the combined populations of the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Germany - by handing out free rail travel to 26 lucky passengers. The celebrations took place just days before Virgin Trains hit a new record level for Overall Satisfaction for long-distance train operators in the latest independent National Passenger Survey carried out by rail watchdog Passenger Focus.
Renee Little from Glasgow was one of the passengers onboard Virgin’s 08:52 train from Edinburgh to Birmingham on 20 January, when Virgin Trains’ Chief Operating Officer Chris Gibb jumped onboard at Warrington Bank Quay. Renee received a First Class pass offering unlimited travel for a complete month. A number of other passengers on the train were invited to join the celebrations and received a free First Class return journey anywhere on the Virgin Trains network.
Renee Little was travelling with her daughter Elaine, Marketing Manager at Dentistry on the Square in Glasgow and the Principle Dentist at the practice. Members of the practice were travelling to a dentistry conference.
On accepting her travel pass Renee said: “I’m not really a frequent train traveller but I’m having a nice day out today and looking forward to doing some shopping in Birmingham. The one month travel pass is a really nice surprise: I will be travelling to the south of England in April for my niece’s 21st birthday soon and I’ll definitely be going by train now. I’ll be able to have shopping trips to London with my daughter too.”
Daughter Elaine said: “I like being able to plug in my laptop. I’ve been able to work on the train and do some final preparation for my conference presentation, and I had a nice baguette and cup of tea earlier from the Shop.”
The group had considered flying from Glasgow to London but were pleased that they chose the train.
“We thought about flying but we’re glad we didn’t,” said Dr Mark Skimming. “When you take into account travel to the airport then the wait in the airport, the journey time by train is about the same and so is the cost but on the train it’s much more comfortable, you get more room to move and with Wi-Fi and power sockets you can get some work done while you travel.”
Virgin Trains has also given away a monthly First Class pass and a further 25 First Class return tickets through Social Media using its Facebook site and Twitter account.
Chris Gibb said: ”Virgin Trains has transformed rail travel on the West Coast routes over the last 14 years. This franchise has gone from strength to strength, with more trains, more customers, more services and better performance. We have achieved so many improvements over recent years and will strive even harder to bring further benefits to customers.”
Virgin Trains took over the West Coast franchise, operating from London to the West Midlands, North West, North Wales, Cumbria and Glasgow in 1997. It added the Birmingham-Scotland services to its West Coast operation in 2007. Passenger numbers have more than doubled from 13.5 million a year in 1997 to 28.2 million in 2010.
Since 1997 a new train fleet worth over £1billion has been introduced and a route upgrade completed, with a doubling of train services to 330 a day and faster journey times. On board facilities have been totally transformed with a Shop selling a range of hot and cold snack and drinks and magazines. An at seat service is provided for First Class customers on weekdays as well as power points, enhanced mobile phone reception and Wi-Fi throughout the train.
The continued improvements Virgin Trains has made to its train services over the last 14 years continue to be reflected in the high scores achieved in the latest National Passenger Survey carried out by rail watchdog Passenger Focus. Latest figures show that Virgin Trains has received the highest score for franchised long-distance achieving 90% Overall Satisfaction (average 87%) and 65% Value for Money (average 59%). Virgin Trains also scored highly on ticket buying facilities at stations (85% against average 82%) and Connections with Public Transport (82% against average 77%).The availability of staff at stations, as well as the attitude and helpfulness of staff at stations score above the long-distance average.
Virgin Trains’ Chief Operating Officer added: “It’s a great boost for all our staff, from those on stations, the trains, to Control staff and support teams that we are consistently achieving high scores in the survey by Passenger Focus. We know that high scores only come in the areas where we are doing well, so will be focusing on the other areas to ensure that we can deliver improvements for our passengers.”