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Christmas record for Virgin Trains as growth continues

Press Release   •   Dec 10, 2009 23:00 GMT

Virgin Trains today (11 December 2009) announced record-breaking sales figures for the Christmas and New Year period, with advance bookings at their highest ever level.

On the day it filed its latest annual accounts, Virgin Trains announced a 20 per cent year-on-year increase in advance ticket sales, with some routes seeing bookings double.

Set to be one of the busiest festive periods for Virgin Trains, routes to London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester are proving popular with nearly 145,000 advance bookings. The Chester and North Wales line is particularly popular this year with over 100% uplift in advance sales.

Virgin Trains has also confirmed that its business is thriving as it continues to grow faster than any other UK franchised train operator. Passenger numbers increased by 1.5m to 22.5 million in the year ending February 2009, according to annual accounts filed today.

Main elements from the annual accounts to March 2009 include:

To 28 Feb 2009To Feb 2008Increase/decrease
Passenger revenue£611m£581m+5%
Franchise support payments£24.12m£119.61m-79%
Profits after tax£76.42m£56.45m+35%
Passenger numbers22.5m21m+7%

Further growth in 2009 has seen passenger volumes increase by around 20% year-on-year since the launch of the high-frequency timetable in December 2008. In the current year Virgin Trains expects to carry around 26 million passengers as more passengers are taking advantage of discounted Advance tickets, with around 500,000 available every week.

Growth has risen sharply since infrastructure disruption which impacted punctuality across the network in 2008 and early 2009. “We have been pleased with the improvements made by Network Rail over the last few months but will continue to monitor their performance and keep the pressure on them to deliver a top class railway,” said Tony Collins, Virgin Rail Chief Executive Officer.

Completion of major route upgrade work has seen a reduction in weekend engineering works. Performance has also improved with the highest ever figure of 93.4% of trains arriving on time being recorded in the four weeks ended 16 October. Performance between September and November 2009 has been consistently above 90%.

There are now 2,180 train services operating every week, including trains every 20 minutes between London and Birmingham, and London and Manchester, along with an hourly service linking London and Chester.

Since taking over the West Coast rail franchise 12 years ago, Virgin has increased the number of passengers from 13.6 million to 22.5 million a year in 2008/9, replaced the entire train fleet; and increased trains on weekdays by 50%.

More than 200 million passenger journeys have now been made with Virgin Trains on its West Coast operations since March 1997. Virgin Trains also stands out as the only train operator that has significantly reduced journey times across its entire network.


ENDS

Innovating for customers: highlights of work since 1997

• Over 130 new trains (with over 750 new carriages) in our Pendolino and Voyager fleets have been put into service, at a cost of £2 billion across West Coast and CrossCountry operations providing a legacy for CrossCountry customers.

• Increasing services has resulted in 60% more customers in the last five years, from 14.5m in 2004 to an estimated 26m in 2009/10.

• Major improvements to passenger facilities at stations, and enhanced our car parks - creating 5000 additional spaces.

• A massive change in service in 2008, with 32% more services and the most frequent long-distance service in Europe (London - Manchester and London - Birmingham, both every 20 minutes).

• Average journey times to Manchester have been slashed to 2 hours 5 minutes, from 2 hours 30 minutes.

Notes to editors:

Virgin Trains currently operates 2180 train services a week on its West Coast network. That’s almost 113,000 train services a year.

The financial accounts for West Coast Trains Limited covering the year to 28 February 2009 were deposited with Companies House on 11 December 2009.

They show a profit after tax of £76 million on overall turnover of £673 million. Franchise support from Government was £24 million, down 79.8% on the 2007/08 financial year.

Images of Virgin Trains and the company’s operations are available in the Image Library on our online Media Room website http://mediaroom.virgintrains.co.uk

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Virgin Trains is the brand name of Virgin Rail Group. We have operated the West Coast passenger train franchise since 1997; the current franchise runs to March 2012.

Virgin Rail Group is owned 51 percent by Virgin Group and 49 percent by Stagecoach.

Virgin Trains has been recognised in numerous industry awards. In 2009 the company was awarded the Globe Travel Awards 2009 ‘Best Rail Operator’ Category as voted by Evening Standard readers; voted Best UK Domestic Train Service by Business Traveller magazine for the second year running; and named Best Rail Operator in the 2009 Group Leisure Awards, run by Group Leisure, the magazine for group travel organisers.

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