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Virgin CrossCountry restores Devon – Manchester link as first direct train is flagged away from Paignton

Press release   •   Jun 11, 2006 23:00 BST

A Devon to Manchester direct link was restored today, Monday 12 June, as Virgin CrossCountry’s 10:02 Voyager was flagged away from Paignton by Councillor John Dunn, Chairman of Torbay Council, at the start of the company’s summer timetable.
Virgin CrossCountry trains serving Paignton have increased from two to six daily.

Flag-waving children from the local Preston Primary School watched the ceremony before joining the train for an educational visit to Exeter, accompanied by an Isambard Kingdom Brunel look alike as part of the 200th Anniversary celebrations of the famous engineer’s birth.

Councillor Dunn said: “I am delighted that Virgin CrossCountry has been able to respond positively to our calls for restoration of through links with Manchester, and I know that the new services will be of great benefit to business and leisure travellers alike.”

Amongst the business passengers attending the event was Mr Neill Mitchell, a Board Member of the South West Chamber of Commerce and an independent regional transport analyst. He said:

“I am delighted at this further boost to strategic transport links between Torbay and one of the UK’s most important international business hubs – at a time when the Bay is hoping to gain Assisted Area status from the Department of Trade and Industry to further help deliver its regeneration aspirations.

“This is a shining example of ‘joined-up’ strategy between the region’s economic planners and a leading train operating company. With proposed A380 road dualling at Kingskerswell still some years away and consequential public road transport access to the motorway network and to Plymouth and Exeter airports as difficult as ever, rail travellers between Torbay, Manchester and all intermediate places will surely have the most comfortable and convenient journey.

“They will also enjoy excellent on-board provision for business working and communications en route. Full marks, again, to Virgin CrossCountry for its timely response to Torbay’s development needs.”

Virgin CrossCountry has today introduced summer timetable improvements to its services linking Scotland, the north-east, north-west and Birmingham with Devon and Cornwall to meet an upsurge in demand for rail travel within the south-west. These include:

· Restored direct link between Devon and Manchester

· Extra capacity for commuters returning from Bristol

· Restored direct link from Edinburgh to Cornwall

· Extra capacity from Plymouth

· Relief for overcrowding in Cornwall

These improvements by Britain’s only ‘national’ passenger train operator have been 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.

The timetable changes follow enhancements to the timetable from last December which brought a significant increase in the number of Virgin CrossCountry trains serving Totnes and Tiverton Parkway.

To re-establish the much requested through train link between Manchester and Devon the 10:48 service from Exeter St Davids to Newcastle now starts from Paignton at 10:02 and calls at Torquay, Newton Abbot, Teignmouth and Dawlish. It then leaves Birmingham New Street for Manchester Piccadilly at 13:48.

The present 06:12 train from Birmingham New Street to Exeter has been extended to serve Paignton.

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 40p 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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