On-line travel agent to provide UK rail tickets

UK-based on-line travel agent, ebookers.com has become the first company of its kind to provide tickets for the UK’s rail network.

The travel agency, which already takes bookings for air travel, hotel rooms and car hire, has now added rail journeys to its portfolio, with the promise of integrating the service to the benefit of its customers’ itineraries. Until now, rail had to be booked through the appropriate booking agent and separate to other travel plans.

ebookers can now provide tickets for 20,000 trains per day, visiting 2,500 stations across the UK, on behalf of 21 rail operating companies.

The company’s president, Tamer Tamar, said, ‘This is a major landmark in online travel, and we are extremely proud to be the first European OTA to offer rail in Great Britain to our customers. We have invested considerable resources in ensuring that the ebookers user experience for rail matches the high standard set by our other products, so our customers can book easier and travel happier. Further down the line, we plan to roll out rail into additional countries we serve, with the option to package with other travel products, such as hotels.’

Ebookers, which was formed as a separate entity in 1999 after being developed as the web-based arm of flightbookers, has stated its intention to continue to develop its on-line rail offering for the foreseeable future. This development is intended to include improvements to the user interface, extending the availability of rail to the company’s mobile formats, and further development of sites in Europe.

East Midlands Trains Operating On Schedule In Spite Of Snowfall

East Midlands Trains, a UK-based train service, has confirmed that it will be continuing its services, in spite of the heavy snowfall affecting parts of the country.

The train operator is currently running its trains on schedule.

David Horne, the managing director for East Midlands Trains, said, ‘We have put a huge amount of planning into preparing for the bad weather to keep our services running for customers. Our staffs are working incredibly hard to keep our trains running and we have extra staff from all areas of our business out clearing snow from station platforms to help keep them safe for passengers.

We’re pleased to have been able to maintain our full timetable throughout the past few days despite some heavy snowfall affecting large parts of our network, and our services are currently running very well.

We’re currently providing a full service on all of our routes, but as with any form of transport, there are times when the severe weather can have an impact on the service we can operate.

We will continue to monitor the weather conditions throughout the day and would advise passengers to keep an eye on how their local transport services are running.

We do understand that it may take people longer to get to the station due to some treacherous road conditions, and we would advise people to allow extra time for their journey to the station and speak to a member of our staff who can provide assistance with onward travel.’

The train company has announced that it will be considering its discretionary powers in the case of passengers that have a pre-booked ticket but cannot make it to the station due to heavy snowfall.


Virgin Trains Announces Standard Class Fare Sale

Virgin Trains, a UK-based train operator, has announced a sale of its standard class fares.

The company is offering up to 50,000 Virgin Trains seats at discounted prices, with prices commencing from £5.50 for a journey between London and Birmingham. The offer is running until January 19, 2012, on a first come, first served basis.

The tickets are for travel between January 21, and March 17, 2013, and may also be purchased online.

The company will be operating around 106 extra carriages on its services, which will add around 30 percent more seats in Standard Class.

Some of the bargain fares include one-way fares from London to Manchester for £10.00; Liverpool £10.00, North Wales £11.00, The Lake District £13.00, and Glasgow £17.00. The tickets on offer are for travel to or from London.

Virgin Trains claims to offer a high speed, high frequency service, and operates the West Coast passenger train franchise via the UK cities of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Glasgow. Since its contract expired in 2012, the train company is currently operating the West Coast services on a short-term contract, while the UK government prepares for a fresh round of the bidding process.

Previously, Tony Collins, the chief executive of Virgin Rail Group, the parent company of Virgin Trains, said, ‘I’m delighted that we have an agreement with the Department for Transport that gives us the chance to continue providing high quality services to our customers. We have had great support from staff and customers in recent months and we will repay that loyalty with even better service.

We will not be sitting back in the coming months, but are keen to introduce more improvements to the service, which is already the most popular long-distance service in the country. We are proud of what we have achieved since 1997, but there is undoubtedly more to come and we will work closely with the Department for Transport to bring even better services in future.’

UK Rail Fare Increases for Passengers in 2013

Rail fares in the UK have increased by an average of 3.9 percent at the beginning of 2013, as most railway companies announce hikes in their New Year fares.

Previously, East Midlands Trains, a UK-based train service, had announced an increase of around 4 percent in its fares, effective January 2, 2013, with the cost of a single journey to increase by around £0.52 per ticket.

Recent research published by the UK’s Trade Union Congress (TUC), has shown that since 2008, average train fares have increased around three times faster than average wages. This has resulted in the rail fare for an average family of four travelling to London from Swansea, Plymouth, Leeds, Manchester or Newcastle on an any time ticket, costing in excess of £481, which is the average weekly wage for a UK worker.

TUC general secretary and chair of Action for Rail, Frances O’Grady, said, ‘I understand the frustration felt by many commuters going back to work today. At a time when real wages are falling and household budgets are being squeezed, rail travellers are being forced to endure yet another year of inflation-busting fare increases.

As well as having to shell out record amounts of money for their tickets, passengers also face the prospect of travelling on trains with fewer staff and having less access to ticket offices. They are being asked to pay much more for less.’

Defending the fare hike, David Horne, the managing director of East Midlands Trains, said, ‘Railway funding can only come from the taxpayer or from the passenger. The government’s policy remains that a bigger share must come from people who use the train.

We know that nobody likes paying more for their travel, especially to get to work. That’s why we are working hard with the rest of the rail industry to make the system more cost-efficient and help take the pressure off future fare rises. At the same time, we are investing in our trains and stations to deliver a better railway for our customers.’

East Midlands Trains Plans Fare Increase for 2013

UK-based train service, East Midlands Trains, is intending to increase its rail fares in the New Year.

The company has announced an increase of around 4 percent on its fares, effective January 2, 2013, with the cost of a single journey likely to increase by around £0.52 per ticket. The new fares can be checked at www.eastmidlandstrains.co.uk, or through National Rail Enquiries.

David Horne, the managing director of East Midlands Trains, said, ‘Railway funding can only come from the taxpayer or from the passenger. The government’s policy remains that a bigger share must come from people who use the train.

We know that nobody likes paying more for their travel, especially to get to work. That’s why we are working hard with the rest of the rail industry to make the system more cost-efficient and help take the pressure off future fare rises. At the same time, we are investing in our trains and stations to deliver a better railway for our customers.’

East Midlands Trains, owned by the Stagecoach Group, operates train service from London St Pancras International to other UK destinations, including Leicester, Derby, Sheffield, Nottingham, Manchester and Liverpool. The company is currently in the process of investing around £40 million for station improvements and train refurbishments across its network.

The company has recently entered into a partnership with Vodafone UK, a mobile network company, and is in the process of installing special equipment on each of the 27 Meridian trains on its routes. The mobile phone signal booster equipment is intended to increase passenger’s mobile phone signals.

Network Rail Announces Performance Update

Network Rail, a company that operates the UK’s railway network, has reported on the railway companies’ performance for the period October 14, 2012, to November 10, 2012.

The rail company has reported an avearge punctuality of 88.9 percent during the period, compared to 89.3 percent for the same period last year. The moving annual average is now at 91.7 percent.

The measure of train punctuality is known as the PPM (public performance measure), which refers to trains arriving at their destinations within five minutes of scheduled time for commuter services, and within 10 minutes of their scheduled time for long distance services. Train punctuality, at national level, is measured for all trains of the network, and is inclusive of cancelled services and delays.

c2c, a train operator that is owned by National express, and which operates the London, Tilbury and Southend franchise, has reported the best punctuality in this period, with a figure of 98.4 percent.

In the six month ended September 30, 2012, Network Rail reported revenue of £3,167m, compared to £2,997m for the same period last year.

Patrick Butcher, Network Rail’s group finance director, said, ‘The railway continues to see strong traffic growth which provides us with the challenge of getting the balance right between capacity, reliability and efficiency. We have seen growth on the network of 5 percent a year for a decade, and this is set to continue. That means we continue to become more efficient so we can continue to invest to meet this growth.

This, combined with the traffic growth, allows us to sustain high levels of capital investment, delivering £2.1bn worth of capital work in the six months.

Network Rail continues to evolve. Last year we completed devolving authority to all ten of our routes and now we can make progress to moving to a group structure that reflects this. We have already set up our infrastructure projects division as a standalone business unit, launched Network Rail Consulting as our international business and we have plans to run our energy, telecoms and recycling operations each with their own profit and loss account. We believe this will generate greater efficiencies and unlock greater value to the business.’

Centro Bids for Control of Local Rail in West Midland

Centro, a UK based organisation that operates the bus, rail and the Midland Metro Tram transport in the West Midlands area, is bidding to take control of the West Midland rail services.

The company’s bid has recently received a boost from a Government consultation, which has reported extensive support for the proposal.

Those responding to the Department for Transport consultation on rail devolution said that passengers and local communities could achieve improved rail services and better value for taxpayers if they had more say on how their railways were run.

In June, Centro submitted a formal expression of interest to the Government to take over the commissioning and management of local rail services once the region’s current franchise, operated by London Midland, expires in September 2015.

The chief executive officer at Centro, Geoff Inskip, said, ‘The findings of the Government’s nationwide consultation shows a strong consensus is emerging around the benefits of putting decision making for local rail networks in local hands.

We certainly welcome these findings as we also believe that greater local control can result in better rail services focussed on the real needs of West Midland passengers.

That’s why, with the backing of the wider region, we have formally told the Government that we wish to have responsibility for the local rail franchise from 2015 onwards.

If we held control locally we would be in a far better position to make sure the local rail network dovetails with economic developments and the wider transport network.

We would also work to ensure it fully connects and feeds into the forthcoming high speed rail line, thereby maximising the significant economic benefits offered by HS2.’

As of now, only two areas, London and Merseyside, have control of their local rail networks, while the Department for Transport in London manages the rest.

Announcing the result of the consultation, UK rail minister, Simon Burns, said, ‘Ensuring decisions are taken by those best placed to make them – those who live and work in those areas – could make certain not only that services are planned to maximise value for money for taxpayers but that passengers get services they need and want.’

Extra Rail Services for UK Sales Shoppers

The UK government has announced additional trains for Boxing Day rail services.

The additional services are being laid on to assist shoppers with gaining easy access to major shopping areas in London, Stratford and Kent.

Announcing the new services, transport minister, Norman Baker, said, ‘We have devised a unique agreement to enable Southeastern and HS1 to make it easier for their passengers to get to the sales following Christmas, which will provide more services at no cost to the Government.

Southeastern ran some very successful services on High Speed 1 during the Olympics and the train operator has shown there is sufficient demand for these services so we were happy to consider allowing them to adjust their timetables. This is an excellent example of the Government, infrastructure owners and train operators working innovatively together to improve services for passengers.’

The rail services are being offered by a collaboration between the UK’s Department for Transport; rail company, Southeastern; and HS1 Ltd. The half-hourly service will run between Ashford International, Ebbsfleet International, Stratford International and St Pancras International.

The managing director of Southeastern, Charles Horton, said, ‘We’re really pleased to offer this trial Boxing Day service for our passengers thanks to the collaboration with HS1 and the DfT. Our high speed Javelin service will transport people from Ashford to St Pancras International in just 37 minutes, and19 minutes from Ebbsfleet. We’re also pleased to offer free parking at these two stations for Boxing Day so everyone has a little bit extra to spend in the sales.’

Southeastern has also announced a sale of off-peak, high-speed and mainline train fares, just in time for the Christmas season. The fares are available for travel up to December 24, 2012, at 25 percent discount on mainline and high-speed tickets bought online.

Sarah Boundy, the head of customer services for Southeastern, said, ‘We’re offering this special discount in time for the Christmas party and shopping season. Our high speed services will whisk passengers directly to the Westfield Shopping Centre at Stratford in just 30 minutes from Ashford and our mainline services offer a really convenient way to get to the heart of Central London’s West End.’

Network Rail Announces Construction of Kings Cross Square in London

Network Rail, a company that operates the railway network in the UK, has commenced the transformation of the historic frontage of King’s Cross station in London into a public space, to be called King’s Cross Square.

The company has commenced the removal of a canopy in front of the Victorian station façade, and the facade will then be deconstructed to create the new square, which has been designed by London-based architects, Stanton Williams. King’s Cross Square is expected to open to the public in 2013.

Matt Tolan, the programme manager for Network Rail at King’s Cross, said, ‘We’re finally removing a building that’s almost universally unloved, restoring the station to its full architectural glory and creating a modern station fit for the future that gives passengers and the local community a huge new space to enjoy.

With the completion of the final phase of King’s Cross station’s redevelopment, we aim to bring a bit of the grandness and old-world charm of Europe’s city-centre railway stations right to the heart of 21st century London.’

The company opened a new glass and steel western concourse in March this year, offering three times more space for passengers than the old concourse, with enhanced connectivity to the London Underground network and St Pancras International station.

David Partridge, the spokesperson for King’s Cross Business Partnership, said, ‘King’s Cross is a rapidly evolving place and is fast becoming one of the most exciting destinations in the city. Over the last 10 years almost £2.5bn has been spent on the transport infrastructure in King’s Cross and St Pancras, creating the best interchange in the UK with unrivalled accessibility.

The removal of this canopy together with the creation of the new square will be another vital part of the new public realm opening up this area of London.’

UK Rail Passengers Will Not Be Affected By Development Work during Christmas

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), the central agency for passenger rail operators in the UK, has reported that most rail passengers will be unaffected by a series of planned improvement works that are expected to be carried out between the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

As the upcoming holiday period is going to see a slow down in passenger traffic, new statistics from the agency show that number of replacement buses will be much less than the same period last year. The majority of rail routes in the UK will stay open despite the planned improvement work.

Michael Roberts, the chief executive of ATOC, said, ‘A great deal of effort and planning goes into making sure that work to improve stations and make journeys faster and more reliable goes on while minimising disruption for our passengers.

This year, we have again been able to reduce the number of people who will have to get on to a replacement bus. Once again train companies have been working closely with Network Rail to make sure that we keep people on trains wherever we can.’

Network Rail, a company that operates the railway network in the UK, has announced that its engineers will be working all through the holiday period to improve signalling, place tracks, renovate bridges and refurbish rail stations to improve its passenger experience.

Robin Gisby, the Network Rail managing director for network operations, said, ‘We’re doing a lot of work this year to improve Britain’s railway and there will be some disruption to passengers over the Christmas period, but the overall effect on passengers is much lower than in previous years.

Passengers will see fewer buses and a better service this Christmas holiday period as our vital improvement work uses new techniques and equipment that reduces the impact on train services. This will be the model for the years ahead as we invest heavily to build a bigger, better railway and support Britain’s economic growth.’