The article is reproduced with the kind permission of the Lancashire Evening Post. It was published by the newspaper in its lepbusinessyear feature on 29 January 2013.
We’re looking to build on the retention of train franchise
Following a dramatic 2012, when we feared we would lose our franchise, I am delighted that Virgin Trains will continue to offer the excellent service that our customers have come to expect.
More than that, we will be focusing even harder on driving improvements for customers.
It is an exciting time for the company and for me.
I have been with Virgin Trains for 15 years and this month I took up the role of General Manager for Scotland and the North.
I manage our onboard service and people, as well as being a member of the regional executive, which includes the management of stations and drivers. My area stretches as far south as Preston, where Sarah Jones is new to the position of Station Manager.
She too brings a wealth of experience with Virgin Trains.
In the Autumn 2012 National Passenger Survey, published by rail watchdog Passenger Focus this month, passengers gave us our best-ever score for overall satisfaction – 92 per cent of those surveyed were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the service they received.
Customers have consistently rated us the best long-distance franchise operator.
Those ratings go a long way to explaining why, when the Department for Transport (DfT) announced in August 2012 that it intended to award the West Coast franchise to a rival operator, customers and the general public gave us tremendous support.
People value the ‘Virgin difference’ and did not want to lose it.
A petition, started by customer Ross McKillop, attracted 174,000 signatures, prompting a parliamentary debate, which was a key element in getting the decision overturned.
In September 2012 Business Traveller magazine readers voted us the Best UK Domestic Rail Operator for the sixth year running.
Far from resting on our laurels, we are focusing on improving customer service in our new franchise that is due to run till November 2014.
December 2012 saw not just the start of the new franchise, but two major improvements that have brought particular benefits for customers on the London- Preston-Glasgow and Birmingham- Scotland routes.
The completion of the ‘Pendolino lengthening’ project means there are 106 additional carriages in use across the Virgin Trains’ network and customers now benefit from up to 28,000 more seats daily.
Most London-Preston-Glasgow services are now 11-car Pendolinos, each providing an additional 150 seats in Standard.
The new timetable that started on December 9 included an hourly service between London and Glasgow for the first time, following 50% growth in customer numbers on the route in the last three years.
Looking forward to the next annual timetable change in December 2013, the Secretary of State for Transport has told Parliament he wants to see the introduction of new services from London to Blackpool.
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