Press release -

Claire helps Virgin Trains celebrate 250 million passengers as satisfaction figures hit record levels

Virgin Trains has celebrated carrying 250 million passengers on its West Coast services - equivalent to the combined populations of the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Germany - by handing out free rail travel to 26 lucky passengers. The celebrations took place just days before Virgin Trains hit a new record level for Overall Satisfaction for long-distance train operators in the latest independent National Passenger Survey carried out by rail watchdog Passenger Focus.

Claire Ilett was one of the lucky passengers travelling on the 10:20 Birmingham to Edinburgh train on 20 January when Virgin Trains’ Chief Operating Officer Chris Gibb joined the train and sprang a surprise by handing a number of passengers a complimentary pair of First Class tickets.

Claire is a regular rail traveller, living in Swindon and studying Musical Theatre and Technical Theatre at the University of Carlisle. Claire said: “I’ve been working in theatre management in Basingstoke and am travelling back to University in Carlisle. I’m using this service because it was the best ticket price. Virgin trains to Carlisle at this time of day are good, not too crowded. I really like being able to charge my phone and laptop on the train.”

Virgin Trains has also given away a monthly First Class pass and a further 25 First Class return tickets and First Class pass through Social Media using its Facebook site and Twitter account.

Chris Gibb said: ”Virgin Trains has transformed rail travel on the West Coast routes over the last 14 years. This franchise has gone from strength to strength, with more trains, more customers, more services and better performance. We have achieved so many improvements over recent years and will strive even harder to bring further benefits to customers.”

Virgin Trains took over the West Coast franchise, operating from London to the West Midlands, North West, North Wales, Cumbria and Glasgow in 1997. It added the Birmingham-Scotland services to its West Coast operation in 2007. Passenger numbers have more than doubled from 13.5 million a year in 1997 to 28.2 million in 2010.

Since 1997 a new train fleet worth over £1billion has been introduced and a route upgrade completed, with a doubling of train services to 330 a day and faster journey times. On board facilities have been totally transformed with a Shop selling a range of hot and cold snack and drinks and magazines. An at seat service is provided for First Class customers on weekdays as well as power points, enhanced mobile phone reception and Wi-Fi throughout the train.

The continued improvements Virgin Trains has made to its train services over the last 14 years continue to be reflected in the high scores achieved in the latest National Passenger Survey carried out by rail watchdog Passenger Focus. Latest figures show that Virgin Trains has received the highest score for franchised long-distance achieving 90% Overall Satisfaction (average 87%) and 65% Value for Money (average 59%). Virgin Trains also scored highly on ticket buying facilities at stations (85% against average 82%) and Connections with Public Transport (82% against average 77%).The availability of staff at stations, as well as the attitude and helpfulness of staff at stations score above the long-distance average.

Virgin Trains’ Chief Operating Officer added: “It’s a great boost for all our staff, from those on stations, the trains, to Control staff and support teams that we are consistently achieving high scores in the survey by Passenger Focus. We know that high scores only come in the areas where we are doing well, so will be focusing on the other areas to ensure that we can deliver improvements for our passengers.”


Notes to Editors:
Photo ‘250 million passengers 004’ shows Claire Ilett receiving her complimentary tickets from Virgin Trains’ Chief Operating Officer Chris Gibb, watched by Train manager Keith Preece and fellow passenger Sharon Jin.

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Virgin Trains is the brand name of Virgin Rail Group. We have operated the West Coast passenger train franchise since March 1997; the current franchise runs to March 2012.

Since entering the UK rail market in 1997 over 444 million passenger journeys have been made with Virgin Trains.

Virgin Rail Group is owned 51 percent by Virgin Group and 49 percent by Stagecoach

Virgin Trains has been recognised in numerous industry awards. In 2010 the company has been 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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