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New Managing Director for Virgin West Coast

Press Release   •   Aug 19, 2007 23:00 BST

20 August 2007

Virgin Rail Group announced today that Charles Belcher is to retire from Virgin Trains after four-and-a-half years as Managing Director, Virgin West Coast.

He will be succeeded by Chris Gibb, currently Managing Director of Virgin CrossCountry.

After leading the successful Virgin CrossCountry franchise since 2003, Chris will take over the West Coast network from 31 August, with Charles assisting in the handover. Chris will also continue as Managing Director Virgin CrossCountry until 11 November, when Arriva will take on the Cross Country franchise.

Virgin West Coast and Virgin CrossCountry have become two of Europe’s fastest-growing rail networks, increasing the number of customers by more than 60 percent over 10 years to 43 million. They have also shown some of the biggest improvements in performance, each regularly achieving 90 percent plus punctuality scores.

The appointment comes as Virgin West Coast prepares for exciting changes, which will almost double the number of Sunday services, create 32 percent more train services overall and add 13 million seats a year to meet forecast demand.

Chris Gibb said: “I am delighted to be taking over Virgin West Coast at such an exciting time, and I look forward to leading the company onwards and upwards in coming years. Working with colleagues across Virgin, I will continue to ensure a smooth handover of many CrossCountry people to Arriva on 11 November, as well as the transfer of the Birmingham-Scotland service to Virgin West Coast.

“I will continue to manage Virgin CrossCountry in full up to this date. Charles will be a tough act to follow, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”

Charles Belcher said: “It has been a privilege to lead a fantastic West Coast team during a successful period in which we introduced a fleet of tilting trains, improved performance to record levels and have seen customers flocking to our services in their millions. Chris has had great success on CrossCountry and I have no doubt his skills will continue the success of West Coast.”

Tony Collins, Chief Executive of Virgin Rail Group, said: “In Charles and Chris, we have two of the leading MDs in the railway industry. They have spurred each other to hit the highest performance scores ever seen on either network while increasing the number of customers to unprecedented levels.

“Charles has my personal thanks for transforming West Coast into the success it is today by leading a highly-skilled team which I know will give Chris all the support he needs.”

Chris, 43, has 26 years railway experience, having started as a junior clerk in south London at the age of 17. Following British Rail management training he was a train crew supervisor at West Coast’s Glasgow Polmadie depot. He was Managing Director of Wales & Borders before joining Virgin CrossCountry in May 2003.

Charles joined Virgin Trains in May 2003 following MD roles and a varied career within British Rail. He was appointed MD of Rail Express Systems in 1994 and went on to be MD of Silverlink in 1997 and MD of Wessex Trains in 2001. He also chairs the Board of National Rail Enquiries which provides the telephone and on-line enquiry service for the rail industry.

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