Virgin Trains and the Department for Transport have signed a new deal guaranteeing big improvements for both passengers and taxpayers. The new West Coast franchise will run until March 2017 and will see significant improvements for customers with the introduction of free superfast WiFi, more seats and new services.
The new West Coast contract comes into force on June 22nd and will mean Standard Class capacity increases by 5,500 seats per day, all trains are equipped with free WiFi and new direct services are introduced. Plus, taxpayers will also benefit with a guarantee that more than £430m will be paid to government, a rise of at least 58% on the current arrangement.
Patrick McCall, Virgin Trains Executive Co-Chairman, said the deal "shows the clear benefits of a well-run franchise system".
He commented: "This deal is great news for passengers and taxpayers, with significant benefits for our customers as well as a big increase in the money we pay to government. We know WiFi is high on our customers’ priorities and we’re delighted that we’re going to be able to offer them free and super-fast WiFi. Together with thousands of extra seats and plans for new services, this deal will mean big improvements for millions of Virgin Trains passengers."
The new franchise will mean also include other benefits for Virgin Trains customers, with new services between Shrewsbury/Blackpool and London expected to start by December 2014.
More than £20 million will be spent on modernising stations with new and improved waiting rooms, extra ticket machines and more staff. There will also be an increased emphasis on apprenticeships, traineeships and graduate placements, with a pledge to increase SMEs in supply base by 10% and a commitment to make station and training centre facilities available for community use. Virgin Trains will also continue their commitment to cutting CO2 emissions across stations, diverting 98% of waste from landfill to recycling and implementing efficient LED lighting.
There will be a new reward programme, with customers who book via the Virgin Trains website or mobile app able to earn Nectar points on their purchase by the end of the summer.
This deal has significant financial benefits for taxpayers, meaning that the department for Transportation will be paid more than £430 million over the course of this new contact, as well as up to 100% of the additional returns generated by Virgin Trains. The fixed premium represents an increase of at least 58% per year4 and will help support the huge investment that is taking place in the railways.
The deal builds on the huge progress Virgin Trains has made since taking over the West Coast franchise in 1997. The number of passengers carried each year has more than doubled to 32 million, journey times have been cut and the number of services increased. More than £2bn has been invested in trains and passengers have consistently rated us as the best long distance operator.
Head to the Virgin Trains website for more information.