23 May 2024

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Virgin Trains

expired franchise

< InterCity West Coast TOU (British Railways Board)

replaced by
Virgin Trains >

start date
9 March 1997
end date
22 June 2014

owned by
Virgin Rail Group Ltd (Virgin Group Ltd [51%]/Stagecoach Group plc [49%])

legal title
West Coast Trains Ltd

This franchise was offered in 1996 as InterCity West Coast, and was originally one of two contracts won by Virgin Rail Group (the other was CrossCountry).

The West Coast contract, originally let for 15 years, was one of the longest awarded in the first round of railway privatisation. As with other long contracts, this was to allow the operator time to replace the fleet – a commitment which was largely fulfilled by 2005.

Although the two franchises were legally separate, Virgin marketed the two as a single entity, Virgin Trains. CrossCountry passed to Arriva in November 2007, after a period in which both the Virgin franchises were operated as management contracts, mainly because the West Coast Main Line upgrade had fallen behind schedule. Virgin introduced faster and more frequent services in December 2008.

The Department for Transport announced on 19 May 2011 that the West Coast contract would not be replaced until December 2012, and then confirmed on 27 October 2011 that the Virgin contract would be extended to cover, and now terminate on 9 December 2012. Virgin failed to win the competition for the following contract, which had been won by FirstGroup, but Virgin started High Court proceedings on 28 August 2012, alleging that the Department for Transport's calculations of future growth and revenue, and the associated risks, were incorrect. This claim was initially denied, but the DfT then announced on 3 October 2012 that the competition had been cancelled because flaws had been discovered in the process. Two inquiries were launched and all rail franchisng suspended.

As an interim measure, Virgin was awarded a short contract lasting up to 23 months on 6 December 2012. This was a management contract which would have expired on 9 November 2014.

In June 2014 Virgin gained a new replacement franchise which was to run until at least April 2017.

service area
Long distance services. London Euston-Rugby-(Trent Valley)/Birmingham and Wolverhampton/Stoke-on-Trent-Crewe-Chester-WrexhamManchester/Liverpool/Holyhead/Glasgow. Also London-Blackpool North/Shrewsbury from December 2014.

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