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“Time to think big”, says Virgin

Press Release   •   Feb 17, 2011 23:00 GMT

Virgin Rail Group (VRG) has submitted its application to bid for the West Coast Mainline franchise, which is scheduled to start in April 2012.

A bid team has been created under Paul Furze-Waddock, Business Development Director, as VRG aims to continue the massive success of recent years, which has seen the West Coast franchise operate the fastest-growing route in Britain.

Under Virgin Rail Group, the West Coast franchise has doubled customer numbers to 28 million in the last six years and now has the highest satisfaction rating of any long-distance franchise, at 90 per cent, as measured by independent watchdog Passenger Focus.

"There has been great progress in recent years and we are all committed to trying to continue that momentum," said Tony Collins, CEO, "and we plan to submit an exciting and deliverable bid if we are given the opportunity.

"Despite the huge improvements, we certainly don't think the work has finished and the bid team is brimming with exciting ideas to take this franchise to an even higher level.

"We have been encouraged by the public commitment by the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary, to continue investing in key infrastructure projects to drive forward the economic recovery and reduce the North-South economic divide. The vision shown in 1997 by the then Government and shareholders when we started this franchise is now delivering the results we all hoped for.

"Investment, innovation and pioneering thinking will take this franchise forward, paying money to the taxpayer and improving customer service even further. The Government's plans for high speed rail have shown there is political vision, and growth on the West Coast franchise will be crucial in delivering that vision. It is a chance to think big."

VRG's application consists of a complex Pre-Qualification Questionnaire, which all potential bidders must complete, before a shortlist is drawn up and a full invitation to tender is published.

The proposed timetable for bidding, published by the Department for Transport, is as follows:

18 February 2011: Bidders must submit their completed application to bid (the 'PQQ')
29 March 2011: DfT announces the shortlisted bidders
10 May 2011: Bidders receive the Invitation to Tender (ITT)
17 August 2011: Bids are submitted to DfT
05 December 2011: Announcement of winning bidder
01 April 2012: Start of new franchise

Notes to editors:

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Virgin Rail Group is the parent company of Virgin Trains. We have operated the West Coast passenger train franchise since 1997; the current franchise runs to March 2012. Virgin Trains serves major towns along the West Coast including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Virgin Rail Group is owned 51 per cent by Virgin Group and 49 per cent by Stagecoach.

Virgin Trains has been recognised in numerous industry awards. In 2010 the company was named Best Rail Operator of the Year at the Travel Globe Awards (voted for by readers of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Evening Standard), and Best Rail Operator in the Group Leisure Awards (which we also won in 2009). In 2009 we were also voted Best UK Domestic Train Service by Business Traveller magazine for the second year running. Virgin Trains first achieved Investors In People accreditation in 2007and this was renewed in 2010; the IiP Gold award was achieved in 2011.

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