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Virgin Trains contributes to highest annual number of rail passengers for 60 years

Press Release   •   Feb 15, 2007 23:00 GMT

With Virgin CrossCountry passenger journey growth of 75 percent since 1997 and more than 35 percent growth on Virgin West Coast since its 2004 accelerated timetable, Virgin Trains has contributed significantly to a total of more than a billion passenger journeys made on the national rail network last year, the highest for 60 years.

Annual passenger journeys between Birmingham and Sheffield rose by 118 percent from 51,460 in 1994/5 to 112,029 in 2005/6, and those between Bristol and Plymouth by 111 percent from 25,547 to 54,030.

The 2006 annual figure and record growth rate of 6.7 percent during the year was announced today by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and Virgin Trains has led Britain’s charge in becoming the fastest-growing railway in Europe.

As Virgin Trains celebrates its 10th birthday, it announced that the number of journeys made on its routes has risen by a staggering 61.5 per cent, outstripping the national post-privatisation average of around 40 per cent.

The two Virgin Trains franchises – Virgin West Coast and Virgin CrossCountry – have seen some of the biggest increases in passenger numbers in Europe, with new trains, faster and more frequent services and innovative ticketing all attracting millions more passengers.

In the last 12 months more than 42 million journeys have been made with Virgin Trains – 16 million more than when the company began in 1997. Passenger growth last year was 21 percent for Virgin West Coast and ten percent for Virgin CrossCountry

Virgin CrossCountry has seen massive growth of 75 per cent since 1997, with passenger numbers up from 12 million to 21 million, while on Virgin West Coast passenger numbers have increased by more than 35 per cent since introduction of the Pendolino-run 125 mph timetable in 2004.

Managing Director Chris Gibb said: “We’ve taken a route that had ageing trains, infrequent services and long journey times and turned it into a modern, high-speed service with brand new trains and a turn-up and go timetable. Everyone at Virgin Trains has worked really hard to improve our service and we are proud that our customers now rely on us to deliver them to their destination on time and in comfort.”

Customers have been enticed back to rail following the introduction of two new train fleets and a vastly improved timetable. The number of Virgin CrossCountry weekday services has been increased to run half-hourly from Birmingham to Newcastle, Reading, Manchester and Bristol and hourly to Edinburgh, Carlisle and Plymouth. The Virgin West Coast timetable has been improved with the Manchester-London service revamped to run every 30 minutes. In the last three years our share of the London-Manchester air/rail market has risen dramatically from 38 per cent to 61 per cent.

The Voyager and Pendolino fleets have revolutionised train travel across the network and have slashed journey times. The Pendolino trains on Virgin West Coast decelerate using regenerative braking, which returns power to the National Grid providing enough electricity to power 13,750 homes for a year. In a further environmental initiative Virgin Trains is now working with our partners to develop a biofuel for use with the Voyager trains on Virgin CrossCountry.

In the last ten years Virgin Trains has been at the forefront of innovation within the UK’s rail network.

Virgin was the first to offer a dedicated full internet booking service, and also introduced Virgin Value advanced purchase fares to give more customers a better deal. Since July 2004 more relaxed booking conditions have helped increase the number of these tickets sold by 40 per cent.

Virgin Trains also recently launched heavily discounted Print@home tickets on the Birmingham-London and Manchester-London routes. These are discounted tickets that are printed at home for use on pre-specified services.

The latest independent Passenger Focus survey shows overall customer satisfaction at 90 per cent on Virgin West Coast – the best of all High-Speed long distance operators. For attitude and helpfulness of staff to customers Virgin CrossCountry came top with 82 per cent.

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