Press release -

Top performance from Virgin West Coast

Virgin has just delivered its best-ever performance to its West Coast customers with a record-breaking 91.1 percent of trains arriving on time during the four weeks to 4 February 2006.

Figures released by Virgin today show that for the first time since it was awarded the West Coast franchise in March 1997 more than nine out of every ten trains arrived on time. The figure is massive 22 percent improvement over the same period last year.

The figures come just weeks after the rail watchdog ‘Passenger Focus’ published its latest survey results which showed an increase to 82 percent in the number of passengers satisfied with their West Coast journey. Customers satisfied with the timekeeping and reliability of their West Coast journey is up nine percent to 80 percent - higher than the national average for inter city operators.

Virgin West Coast Managing Director Charles Belcher said: “The results speak for themselves. Virgin has worked very hard with our counterparts at Network Rail and Alstom to focus on delivering top class performance. 199 out of 217 trains run every day are now regularly arriving at their destination on time. Passengers are voting with their feet as news of the performance improvements spreads and are choosing Virgin Trains as their preferred travel choice.

“We are delighted with a performance figure of 91.1 percent but are not complacent. We know, because they have told us, that what our passengers want is consistent performance and we now aim to deliver this. Our target is to achieve performance around 90 percent more often by the end of the year and consistent 90 percent plus performance from Easter 2007. We aim to achieve this despite the challenges that further engineering work on the route will bring.”

Network Rail Deputy Chief Executive Iain Coucher said: “We have set demanding targets to improve punctuality and the recent performance on West Coast has been impressive. Delays caused by infrastructure are falling rapidly and this is a real tribute to the hard work our people have put in to deliver improvements consistently, month in, month out. However we are impatient to see even more progress and we will continue to work hand-in-hand with Virgin to ensure a better service for passengers on West Coast.”
Passenger journeys on West Coast have increased by over three million in the last year and 18.6 million passenger journeys are now made every year. Airlines on the Manchester-London route have lost out as rail has turned the tables to become the market leader with passengers returning to rail in their thousands.

Between September 2004 and October 2005 the number of rail and air journeys a month between Greater Manchester and London has increased by almost 98,000 but the airlines have seen a 6.3 percent drop in passenger numbers while rail journeys have almost doubled with a 95% increase. 221,783 passenger journeys were made on Virgin’s trains between the Greater Manchester area and London in October 2005.

There is no doubt that passengers using Virgin’s West Coast services are now reaping the rewards of the upgrading of the route. New track and signalling has been accompanied by investment of over £1 billion in 53 state-of-the-art tilting trains and a 125mph timetable with more services and reduced journey times.

President of the Virgin Group of Companies Sir Richard Branson congratulated everyone in achieving the best-ever West Coast performance. “All of our people at Virgin Trains have shared, alongside our customers, the ‘pain’ that the major track upgrade on the West Coast has caused. Virgin Trains has been given its chance to shine and with new trains, new track and superb people, we have shown what we can do and we are now delivering our promises. Our customers appreciate the hard work and determination of every one of our staff in achieving this. Well done all round!”

Notes to Editors

Ø The 91.1 percent performance was achieved during the railway industry period for the four weeks ending February 4 2006.

Ø Performance on individual routes was Liverpool (93.4 percent); West Midlands (92.9 percent); Manchester (90 percent); Lancashire/Cumbria (90.7 percent); North Wales (88.5 percent); and London-Glasgow (87.6%).

Ø Train performance is measured against the industry’s standard Public Performance Measure (PPM).

Ø Virgin’s West Coast services operate on the route from London Euston to the West Midlands, Manchester, Liverpool, North Wales, Preston, Carlisle and Glasgow/Edinburgh.

Ø Virgin West Coast is part of Virgin Rail Group (owned 51% by Virgin and 49% by Stagecoach). VRG also operates the CrossCountry franchise.

Ø CrossCountry performance in the four weeks ending 4 February 2006 was 86.8% and the MAA was 80.3%.


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