Virgin Group applies for Open Access rail paths

Virgin banner
Virgin banner
by Caitlin Marsh
23 May 2024

Virgin Group has started the process towards bringing Virgin back to the railways, applying to the Office of Rail and Road for four Open Access rail paths.

Josh Bayliss, CEO of the Virgin Group, says: “Virgin has submitted an application to the Office of Rail and Road for four Open Access rail paths. Whilst this application is just the first step towards bringing Virgin back to the rail network, we think Open Access is the way forward. Open Access increases consumer choice and competition both of which Virgin has always supported.  

“Virgin is exceptionally proud of everything Virgin Trains and its wonderful onboard teams achieved in the UK. In the 20 years Virgin Trains operated on the West Coast, they reduced journey times considerably, tripled services on key routes and provided an exceptional customer experience while increasing passenger numbers from 8 million to 42 million per year.  The team won many awards for service and was incredibly popular with the British public.  We’re confident customers would welcome Virgin Trains back, providing them with much-needed choice and competition.” 

Under this type of license, Virgin would not receive any state subsidies and assumes the risk of running a rail service itself. In contrast, a franchised operator holds a contract with the government to run the route. 

The routes applied for – running in both directions – are as follows: 

  • London Euston 

  • Nuneaton 

  • Stoke on Trent 

  • Stockport 

  • Manchester Piccadilly 

Then either:  

  • Manchester Victoria  

  • Rochdale (end point) 


  • Bolton 

  • Horwich 

  • Chorley 

  • Preston (end point)  


  • London Euston  

  • Tamworth  

  • Lichfield Trent Valley  

  • Runcorn  

  • Liverpool South Parkway  

  • Liverpool Lime Street  


  • London Euston  

  • Coventry  

  • Birmingham International  

  • Birmingham New Street  


  • London Euston 

  • Golborne  

  • Preston 

  • Carlisle  

  • Motherwell  

  • Lockerbie 

  • Glasgow Central 

In the meantime, check out what Virgin Trains Ticketing is doing to unlock a better deal for passengers when purchasing train tickets with its Charter for Change report here.