Virgin Trains has underlined its support for installing lifts at Penrith Station following talks with Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and The Border.
The train operator has outlined the actions it has taken since being awarded a temporary franchise to operate passenger services on the West Coast Main Line last year and will confirm support for the station upgrade in forthcoming industry discussions.
Mr Stewart has been a tireless campaigner for disabled people and has described transport as “the great remaining challenge to disabled rights in Britain”. Penrith, which is owned by Network Rail and managed by Virgin Trains, is the last station on the West Coast Main Line which is not accessible for wheelchair users.
As part of a cross rail industry process, Network Rail is undertaking a feasibility study looking at options to improve accessibility at Penrith station. Network Rail will shortly be sharing these proposals with Virgin Trains and other local stakeholders with the aim of including Penrith in a list of stations recommended for upgrade as part of the Department for Transport’s Access for All programme. The list is due to be submitted to the DfT in October with a decision on which projects to take forward due to be made by ministers ahead of April 2014.
The latest progress was welcomed by Mr Stewart, who said: "Penrith desperately deserves this upgrade, and I am delighted that Virgin are doing what they can to try and incorporate this important piece of work into their discussions around their future plans.
“I was extremely pleased to be able to raise the issue of national disabled access in a recent Westminster Hall debate, and I remain hopeful that we will be able to make the necessary improvements at Penrith station in the near future."
Sue Howarth, Group Station Manager for Virgin Trains, added: “We look forward to seeing details of the proposals for improving station access and are fully supportive of the need to install lifts at Penrith.
“We share Rory Stewart’s interest in removing one of the last major obstacles to access for disabled people on our network.”
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Virgin Trains has revolutionised rail travel by creating a high speed, high frequency service that has cut journey times and made rail journeys more comfortable. It has operated the West Coast passenger train franchise since 1997, serving key UK cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Glasgow.
Virgin Trains is the brand name of Virgin Rail Group (VRG), which is owned 51 percent by Virgin Group and 49 percent by Stagecoach. The Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded VRG a franchise contract, which started on 9 December 2012 and will run for up to 23 months. The DfT announced on 26 March 2013 a programme for letting future franchises, with the long-term West Coast franchise expected to start in April 2017.
Virgin Trains has been recognised in numerous awards. In September 2012 Business Traveller magazine readers voted the company the Best UK Domestic Rail Operator for the sixth year running. In 2011 the company was named Best Rail Operator in the Group Leisure Awards (which it also won in 2009 and 2010). In 2011 Virgin Trains won the British Quality Foundation's Achievement Award for Customer Satisfaction.
Customers consistently rate the company the top long-distance rail franchise operator, as measured by the National Passenger Survey (NPS) run by industry watchdog Passenger Focus. In the most recent NPS (Spring 2013) overall satisfaction was 92%, equalling our best ever score from the previous survey (Autumn 2012).
Virgin Trains first achieved Investors In People accreditation in 2007 and this was renewed in 2010; the IIP Gold award was achieved in 2011. In May 2013 Virgin Trains renewed it accreditation against the criteria of the European Foundation for Quality Management's (EFQM) Excellence Model, which it originally achieved in May 2011 The company’s Learning and Development team won a National Training Awards 2011 West Midlands award for its Coaching Culture programme.For more information about Virgin Trains visit the Virgin Trains' website or the Media Room website.