Virgin Trains offers 25 percent fare reduction during work disruption

Virgin Trains, the train operating arm of sir Richard Branson’s Virgin empire, and the franchise holder for the West Coast Main Line, has announced that it is offering a number of cheap day return tickets between Glasgow and destinations in the north of England during the middle of July.

The company is offering a 25 percent reduction on return fares for all 9 days between July 13 and July 21, for all passengers returning the same day to destinations including Lancaster, Oxenholme, Penrith, Carlisle and Glasgow. During the same period, Network Rail, the company responsible for the UK’s rail infrastructure, will be carrying out essential maintenance work that will close the West Coast Main Line between Warrington Bank Quay and Preston. This will mean that there will be no direct service between London Euston/Birmingham New Street and Edinburgh and Glasgow Central during the period. Services should however be maintained between destinations north of Preston.

Virgin Trains’ general manager for Scotland and North England, Gary Iddon, said, ‘We recognise that passengers will be affected by this work and we’re doing everything we can to ensure that alternative travel arrangements are put in place for them. We will have extra staff deployed within stations to ensure that passengers get the appropriate information and can find their connecting services easily.

‘We’re delighted to be able to offer a significant price reduction on a number of fares between Lancashire, Cumbria and Glasgow, where travel will not be significantly affected. We would encourage the public to take advantage of these.’

The 25 percent reduction in ticket prices will see a cheap day return ticket to Carlisle from Glasgow reduced to £17.40 from the regular off-peak fare of £23.20, and Glasgow to Lancaster reduced to £23.50 from £31.30.

Virgin gets go ahead for West Coast franchise extension

In the latest development in the West Coast Main Line franchise saga, the Department for Transport will ask Virgin Rail Group to extend its current agreement for a limited period.

Virgin Rail’s agreement was due to end on December 9 this year, and the new franchise was originally awarded to FirstGroup. However, following a protest campaign by Virgin Rail over the handling of the award, and a subsequent investigation by the Department for Transport, certain discrepancies were brought to light and the award to FirstGroup was withdrawn.

Two independent reviews have been set up into what went wrong with the bidding process, and while the findings of those reviews are awaited, Virgin Trains will continue to operate the line, possibly doing so for as long as nine months. The franchise process for other lines, including Essex Thameside, Great Western and Thameslink have also been put on hold until the reviewers have had an opportunity to report their findings.

Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, said, ‘The cancellation of the InterCity West Coast franchise is deeply regrettable and I apologise to the bidders involved and the taxpayer who have a right to expect better. My priority now is to fix the problem and the first step is to take urgent action to ensure that on the December 9th services continue to run to the same standard and passengers are not affected. I believe Virgin remaining as operator for a short period of time is the best way to do this and my officials and I will be working flat out to make this happen.’

A Virgin Trains spokesman commented that the company was now in a position to ‘offer customers some short-term continuity.’