Summer timetable improvements to Virgin CrossCountry services from earlier this month are bringing welcome relief to overcrowding in Devon and Cornwall.
These improvements by Britain’s only ‘national’ passenger train operator are being delivered as continuing growth encouraged by the highest levels of performance for many years has brought in excess of 20 million passenger journeys a year to CrossCountry. Passenger journeys between Bristol and Plymouth have doubled during the past decade.
As a further boost to First Class business travel, Virgin CrossCountry is to extend its at-seat complimentary catering to twelve weekday trains on the Plymouth to Bristol route on a trial basis. Additional Plymouth-based First Class Hosts have been recruited to provide this service on the 06:25, 07:25, 08:25, 12:25, 13:25 and14:25 trains from Plymouth and the 09:44, 10:44, 11:44, 15:44, 16:44 and 17:11 services from Bristol.
As a result of industry co-operation to provide additional capacity through Cornwall during peak commuting time, the former 05:45 service from Plymouth to Penzance now leaves later at 07:10. This train connects at Truro with a service for Falmouth and relieves overcrowding on the First Great Western Trains service leaving Plymouth at 07:20. The former 20:00 Virgin CrossCountry service from Penzance to Plymouth now leaves later at 20:55 and connects with an Exeter service at Plymouth.
Restoring a direct train between Edinburgh and Cornwall, the 09:00 service from Glasgow Central to Plymouth via Leeds has been extended to serve Penzance, replacing the current First Great Western Trains service. It leaves Plymouth at 19:08 and calls at Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne and St Erth. Running of the former 17:10 Virgin CrossCountry service from Plymouth to Penzance has been taken over by First Great Western.
To provide additional late-morning capacity from Plymouth and to relieve the busy 09:30 service from Penzance to Glasgow Central the former 13:58 train from Bristol Temple Meads to Newcastle now starts from Plymouth at 11:45 and calls at Totnes, Newton Abbot, Exeter St Davids, Tiverton Parkway and Taunton.
To increase evening peak capacity west from Bristol the 12:19 service from Newcastle to Bristol has been extended to Plymouth, leaving Temple Meads at 17:11. It calls at Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Newton Abbot and Totnes.
Southbound, the 11:24 train from Manchester Piccadilly to Birmingham has been extended to leave New Street at 13:12 and calls at Cheltenham Spa, Bristol Parkway, Temple Meads and principal stations to Plymouth, arriving at 16:48.
Since taking over the franchise in 1997, Virgin Trains has invested more than £1 billion in a fleet of 78 Voyager trains and created a regular clockface timetable to develop a business market for the first time. Business travel now accounts for 39 percent of CrossCountry journeys. CrossCountry operates 184 trains a day – an increase of almost 70 percent over the 110 a day run in 1997.
CrossCountry routes parallel most of the UK’s major and congested motorways and trunk routes and customers travelling Standard Class pay an average 13p per mile compared to the typical 44p cost per mile of motoring.
Virgin Rail Group has been given notice that a reformed and enlarged CrossCountry franchise will be re-let from November 2007.
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