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Virgin smashes Glasgow-London speed record

Press release   •   Sep 21, 2006 23:00 BST

Virgin Trains today achieved a new train speed record on the 401-mile route from Glasgow-London with a non-stop journey time of three hours and 55 minutes – an impressive average speed of 102.5 mph – beating the previous verified southbound speed record of four hours and 14 minutes set by British Rail’s Advanced Passenger Train in the 1980s.

Today’s record was set by the 12:37 special Pendolino from Glasgow Central to London, with over 400 passengers on board, which arrived at Euston station at 16:32. It was the first non-stop run between Glasgow and London since 1949, and the first ever sub-four hour southbound Glasgow to London journey.

The nine-car 439-seat electric Pendolino emits a carbon footprint of only 28 grammes per kilometre compared to the 215 grammes per kilometre of a BMW Three Series five-seat car. Its regenerative braking system returns up to 1,500 kWh of electricity to the power lines on a journey between Glasgow and London through reverse thrust traction motors and the 53-strong train fleet returns some 17 percent of power used on the West Coast.

The special Pendolino was driven by Driver Russell Southworth, 40, from Preston. He began his railway career as a railman at Preston in 1984 and began training as driver in the following year. He became a traction trainee and driver’s assistant before qualifying as driver in 1988. Married for 18 years with a son and a daughter, Russell was a plasterer before joining the railway, and following family tradition of his father, grandfather and uncle. In becoming a driver he fulfilled a childhood ambition. 

The train was filled with over 400 Railway Magazine readers, all of whom bought tickets following a Reader Offer in the September issue of the IPC magazine. All ticket monies raised are being donated to the Heaven’s Angels campaign, which is supported by the Virgin Unite charity and provides specially adapted motorbikes to deliver healthcare to remote parts of Africa, where tracks are impassable for cars. One health worker and a motorbike costing £5,000 can help save 20,000 lives a year.

Virgin Trains’ Chairman Sir Richard Branson said: “This record run has demonstrated the real potential of the upgrading of the West Coast Main Line and the state-of-the-art Virgin Pendolino trains. It has also raised over £30,000 for Heaven’s Angels and I would like to thank everyone who has supported the Heaven’s Angels campaign - Virgin Trains’ staff, the staff and readers of The Railway Magazine who promoted the train and our partners at Network Rail and ALSTOM for all helping us to achieve a new Glasgow to London speed record”.

Eric Prescott, ALSTOM Transport UK Managing Director, said: “We are now seeing what can be achieved with a world-beating train and a West Coast Main Line upgrade.

“ALSTOM is pleased and very proud to have supported Virgin in this record-breaking run which means that passengers can connect between the centres of Glasgow and London in under four hours, quicker than flying.

“Congratulations to Virgin. This is a real milestone for the UK transport system.

“The availability of the Pendolino fleet is consistently meeting Virgin’s service requirements, and reliability is continually improving. ALSTOM will continue to support Virgin to deliver an exceptional service to passengers.”

Notes to editors

Railway Magazine Information

Railway Magazine – launched in 1897 – is a clear and trusted voice of the railway community, covering all aspects of the scene from steam through to modern rail developments

For further information contact the Virgin Trains Press Desk.

For further information about Railway Magazine contact Anna Gawan, Press Officer, IPC Media on 0207 261 6575 or email

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