Virgin Trains has announced plans to launch a new hourly service between London and Liverpool with cheaper tickets and a seat guarantee.
The ‘open access’ application has been lodged with the Office of Rail and Road and would see a new advanced and customer-focused service launching from May 2021.
The new services would be unique in the UK rail industry, with every ticket guaranteed to be at least 10 per cent cheaper than equivalent tickets from other rail operators. Each ticket would also come with a seat reservation for a particular service – meaning everyone would be guaranteed a seat, which would significantly reduce overcrowding in normal operations. And if there was disruption on the rail network and services were busier than usual then any passengers who were unable to find a seat would get a full refund on their ticket.
Customers on the new service would also benefit from free WiFi on all services, and free films and TV on board – as well as an at-seat, on-demand catering service. And if trains were delayed, passengers would get automatic ‘delay repay’ compensation without having to lodge a claim.
Phil Whittingham, Virgin Trains MD, said, “Virgin Trains has led the UK rail industry for twenty-two years. We’ve delivered faster and more frequent services, pioneered digital ticketing and shaken up the industry with initiatives such as scrapping the Friday evening peak. That’s why we top the independent customer satisfaction charts for long-distance franchises.
“But we want to go further. These new services will allow us to take the customer experience on the UK’s railways to the next level and show the rest of the industry how it can be done.”
The application to the rail regulator bids for 24 services per day between London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street. It is expected these services would also call at Lichfield, Tamworth, Nuneaton and Liverpool South Parkway.
This initiative is separate to Virgin Trains’ current West Coast operation. It is expected the new services will generate around £50m of revenue each year and the partnership will involve Virgin, Stagecoach, SNCF and Alstom.