Virgin Trains announces aspirations for the future

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Virgin Trains has outlined a raft of improvements and plans to make the forthcoming engineering works at Watford as painless as possible for passengers.

The train operator says it would like to see further electrification, particularly between Birmingham and Nuneaton, which would be useful as a diversionary route, and Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury.

When pressed on the possibility of Virgin reaching Shrewsbury, following the recent rejection of their application by the ORR, Virgin said  constructive talks are currently taking place with Network Rail  and that May 2014 remains a realistic target for the services commencing and that it expects the ORR to approve their application this time round. The operator revealed that the only real cost to operating the new service will be track access charges and fuel as, due to  better utilisation of rolling stock, rolling stock costs will be minimal.

There are also aspirations to increase line speeds along the West Coast Main Line, especially around the Scottish border where speeds of 135 mph are thought possible. Virgin would also like to see the speed increased for the Crewe through roads, this is currently 80 mph, and Kilby tunnel, which has a limit of 110 mph although the line speed is 125 mph either side of it.

The Watford blockade is due to take place between 6-25th August next year. As VT services will only be able to go as far as Milton Keynes, the operator is exploring the possibility of lending other operators , such as Chiltern, rolling stock in order that passengers can reach London from Birmingham without having to change onto a rail replacement bus.

When tackled about the possibility of Virgin winning the East Coast Main Line franchise, and thus becoming a monopoly on the Anglo-Scottish route, the operator replied by saying that it would market the routes as two separate businesses that would benefit each other, adding that the absolute aim was to get people out of the air and onto rail and not to ramp up fares as monopolies often do.

Virgin’s West Coast Main Line franchise runs until April 2017 and the operator appreciates that time is running out to build anymore Pendolinos based on the current fleet as “one cannot rely on grandfather rights forever”, however it is very unlikely that the original plan for a number of ‘Baby Pendolinos’ will go ahead unless Virgin win the contract to operate the franchise beyond 2017.

Report by Jonathan Webb

1 COMMENT

  1. I am delighted that Virgin would like to electrify the track between Nuneaton and Birmingham and between Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury. Both routes would be very useful for more efficient operation.

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