They’re two of the hottest rivals in sport – but today, fans from Newcastle United and Sunderland football clubs teamed up to kick off a pilot plan to make match day journeys safer, cheaper and easier.
Virgin Trains East Coast has worked closely with both clubs, supporters’ groups and the British Transport Police to create an exclusive web page offering special discounts and flexible bookings accessible to supporters of the North East rivals who are registered with their club.
Registering and booking travel via the web page, https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/footballtickets will deliver these fan-tastic benefits:
- WHAT A SAVE! 10% off Virgin Trains East Coast’s already discounted Advance fares
- BACK OF THE NET! 25% off Virgin Trains East Coast group bookings for between three and nine fans travelling together
- MATCH OF THE DAY! A free change to a new date or train if an away fixture is moved for TV scheduling reasons (applies to Virgin Trains East Coast tickets and trains only)
- EXTRA TIME! More minutes added to catch a return train if the match goes to extra time
Alison Watson, Customer Experience Director at Virgin Trains East Coast, said: “Our pilot discount scheme has been put together in consultation with fans of both Newcastle United and Sunderland, with the full backing of both clubs, the Football Supporters’ Federation and the British Transport Police.
“We’re offering exciting discounts for individuals and groups of supporters travelling together – and the opportunity to change a booked journey with us to a new date or train if an away fixture is rescheduled for TV coverage.
“We know there are many football fans who loyally follow their teams all over the country – this is a trial initiative, working with all our partners to promote safe travel by train. If this pilot proves successful, we will look at extending it to supporters following other clubs on our route.”
The pilot scheme is being welcomed by the Football Supporters Federation (FSF). Rick Duniec, FSF National Council member, said: “This is something we’ve been suggesting for a number of years, and we’re delighted that Virgin Trains East Coast has developed this in partnership with Newcastle United and Sunderland fans.
“In the past, supporters have missed out on cheapest advance-booked fares as late changes to accommodate live TV coverage can leave them out of pocket if they booked before the fixture was moved.
“This is now being addressed, and it’s our job now to encourage Newcastle United and Sunderland supporters with a club membership number to take advantage of this brilliant improvement.”
Inspector Brian Buddo, of British Transport Police, said: “The Football Neighbourhood Policing units of Northumbria Police and British Transport Police are pleased to see the fans of Newcastle United and Sunderland putting aside their rivalry to work together on the scheme.
“We know the majority of football fans are well behaved and a credit to their clubs, and this scheme rewards those who travel responsibly.
“Both BTP and Northumbria Police are committed to working with train companies and football clubs to further promote responsible travel and, during the coming season, we will continue to develop the strong community ties and relationships which have been developed.”
Lee Marshall, PR and supporter liaison manager at Newcastle United, said: “Football fans in the North East are known for going to great lengths to show their support up and down the country so this is a very welcome initiative.
“Alongside British Transport Police, Virgin Trains East Coast deserve huge credit for their proactive approach to working with our supporters. They have taken time to consider the hurdles people face when travelling to matches and they have worked closely with fans and the clubs to overcome them.
“We think the pilot will be a hugely popular addition and we look forward to seeing the scheme in action as the football season progresses.”
Chris Waters, Supporter Liaison Officer at Sunderland AFC, said: “This is a great initiative from Virgin Trains East Coast and we congratulate them on the commitment they have shown in helping football fans to continue to support their team.
“We have been consulting with Virgin Trains East Coast, the British Transport Police and a number of supporter groups regarding this for some time now and hope it will be a real benefit to our fans, who travel to games in such huge numbers.
“Hopefully the trial period will prove to be a great success and we can look to extend it in the future to benefit as many fans as possible.”
Mike Bolam, co-editor of online fanzine NUFC.com, said: "Football fans often seem to be overlooked when Premier League matches are scheduled, so news that Virgin Trains East Coast are looking to redress that balance is very welcome. Let's just hope that NUFC do their bit this season to make the journey worthwhile."
Contact the Virgin Trains East Coast Press Office: 0116 366 3988 during office hours (09.00 - 17.30 Mon-Fri). Outside these times, and for urgent media enquiries only, please call 08700 005151 and ask for the duty Virgin Trains East Coast press officer to be paged.
Virgin Trains East Coast is the brand name of InterCity Railways Ltd (ICR), which is owned by Stagecoach Group (90%) and Virgin Group (10%). Virgin Trains East Coast began operating services on the East Coast Main Line on Sunday 1 March 2015, serving key UK cities including London, Peterborough, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness. In November 2014 the Department for Transport awarded ICR a new franchise until at least 31 March 2023.
Virgin Trains East Coast is committed to delivering a high speed, high quality service with new services, faster and more frequent journeys, more comfortable travel and excellent customer service. More than £140m is to be invested in delivering improved service and a more personalised travel experience for customers.
Visit the Virgin Trains East Coast Media Centre at: http://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/media-centre for the latest news and images.
• Stagecoach Group is a leading international public transport group, with extensive operations in the UK, mainland Europe, the United States and Canada. The Group employs around 38,000 people, and operates bus, coach, train, and tram services.
• Stagecoach is one of the UK’s biggest bus and coach operators with around 8,300 buses and coaches. Around 2.8 million passenger journeys are made on Stagecoach's buses every day on a network stretching from south-west England to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The Group’s business includes major city bus operations in London, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield and Cambridge. Low-cost coach service, megabus.com, operates a network of inter-city services across the UK and continental Europe.
• Stagecoach is a major UK rail operator, running the South West Trains, Island Line and East Midlands Trains networks. It is also the majority shareholder (90%) in the new Virgin Trains East Coast franchise and has a 49% shareholding in Virgin Rail Group, which operates the West Coast rail franchise.
• Stagecoach also operates the Supertram light rail network in Sheffield.
• In North America, Stagecoach operates around 2,400 buses and coaches in the United States and Canada. Megabus.com links around 130 key locations in North America. Stagecoach is also involved in operating commuter, transit, airport express services, contracted, charter and sightseeing services.