Virgin Trains, the railway enterprise of Richard Branson’s Virgin Empire, is to substantially increase the number of seats that it offers between Scotland and Birmingham in a revamp of its schedules that come into force from this December.
A total of 3,300 additional seats per day will be made available by the changes, which will also see the service offered by 24 of the 28 Scottish trains that currently terminate in Birmingham extended to London Euston, via Coventry and Milton Keynes. In a move that is clearly designed to compete with domestic air travel, the new services will connect to international airports in Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh, with the intention of providing more cost effective options for air travellers.
Much of the increased daily capacity will be due to the introduction of improved rolling stock, with the present five-car trains replaced by nine, ten and eleven-car models. The investment in improved capacity is justified by impressive growth figures during Virgin’s 16-year operation of the West Coast service, especially in recent years. Between 2008 and the present day, the Birmingham to Edinburgh service has seen 235 percent growth, the Glasgow to Birmingham service has seen 261 percent growth, and Glasgow to Euston has experienced 144 percent growth. By December this year, a total of 13,000 more seats will be available on these routes than was available in 2008, 30,000 instead of 17,000.
Virgin Trains’ chief operating officer, Chris Gibb, commented, ‘Our plans for December represent the latest phase in our development of services on the West Coast mainline, as we strive to make the most of this iconic route by providing more trains and more seats, seven days a week. The success of recent years shows the enduring popularity of the route, and the potential that remains.
‘We face intense competition from airlines, motorways and other train companies, and will continue to drive forward improvements to attract more customers and stay ahead of our competitors, as well as playing a key part in the economic and social development of the Midlands, North West England and Scotland.’