The East Coast franchise operated by Stagecoach and Virgin Group which operates as Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) as been allowed to end their over-bid franchise of £3.3 billion to operate the route between London and Scotland in 2020, some 3 years earlier than the originally awarded contract length. This will be the second time a private company operating this route as finished early - the other being National Express which handed the franchise back to the Government in 2009.
Maybe it is a good time to have our railway system renationalised as we have too many private companies operating train services.
Virgin Trains - Apr 25, 2017 07:30 BST
Virgin Trains will partner with the French high speed operator, SNCF, in its bid for the West Coast Partnership. This will see the expertise of Virgin, Stagecoach and SNCF brought together to compete for the combined West Coast / HS2 franchise.
The Government has announced that the West Coast Partnership franchise will run from 2019, that it will include the first few years of operation of HS2, and that bidders must have high speed experience. SNCF, one of the world’s most recognised and capable High Speed operators brings that experience to our partnership. The shareholding for the bid is Stagecoach 50%, SNCF 30% and Virgin 20%.
Patrick McCall, Virgin Trains co-Chairman said: “I’m delighted that SNCF has come on board, and together we will put forward what we hope is the winning bid for the next West Coast, and first HS2, franchise. We’ve just celebrated twenty years of Virgin Trains and this news puts us in the best possible position to make it thirty.
“We’ve always focussed on customers throughout our history, introducing many UK firsts such as tilting trains, automatic compensation for delays, M-Ticketing and free films and TV on-board via our BEAM service. We’re thrilled about the prospect of continuing and improving this record of innovation with the UK’s first long distance high speed network, as well as with our friends and communities along the West Coast.”
SNCF is a global leader in high speed rail. It operates the largest fleet of high speed trains in Europe (nearly 430 trainsets) and, not including Thalys or Eurostar, runs around 700 high speed rail journeys per day in France and internationally at speeds of up to 320 km/h, the fastest in Europe. SNCF has been operating its iconic TGV service since 1981 and in 2013 launched Ouigo, its low-cost high speed service. SNCF’s high speed division recorded turnover of €7.5 billion in 2016 of which 27% was from international operations with 27 million passengers journeying on high speed trains outside of France.
Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive of Stagecoach Group, said: "This creates a powerful world-class partnership, bringing together the team which has transformed inter-city rail travel in the UK with the most recognised and capable high speed operator in Europe.
"The new franchise has an important role to play in delivering the improvements and space on our railway that can support our communities and economy. Together, we have a very strong track record of working effectively with other rail partners and infrastructure providers, as well as using cutting edge technology to achieve a step change in customer service."
Guillaume Pepy, Chairman and CEO of SNCF said: “This is a very exciting development for SNCF. We are world leaders in high speed rail. SNCF has a long-standing commitment of working in partnership with British companies, using their local knowledge and sharing our expertise and experience. Today, we are delighted to announce this next step in our commitment to UK rail, working with partners who have demonstrated their own expertise in long distance rail services and are highly regarded in the industry. We appreciate Stagecoach’s widespread expertise across a variety of transport modes and Virgin’s reputation for its renowned customer experience. In partnership, we will deliver a successful HS2 service for the UK.”
Virgin, Stagecoach, and SNCF have already worked together on the first stage of the West Coast Partnership bid, the ‘expression of interest’, which was submitted yesterday. The partners will now prepare for the “Invitation to Tender” which is expected to be issued by the end of the year.
Virgin Trains - Oct 19, 2016 10:43 BST
More than 15,000 candidates have applied to drive Virgin Trains’ revolutionary new Azuma trains following the biggest recruitment drive on the east coast route since the 1980s.
The overwhelming response, which equates to nearly 200 applications per post, comes as Virgin Trains gears up for the launch of the new fleet in 2018. The Virgin Trains talent team has now started sifting through the thousands of applications after the closing date last Friday.
The 78 new drivers will work from depots between London and Edinburgh and are due to start a year-long development programme in January 2017.
A spokesperson for Virgin Trains said: “We have received a huge amount of interest in this fantastic opportunity at Virgin Trains on its east coast route. We’re really excited that so many people want to come and join our fabulous company! The Talent team are working hard to process and update all of the applications we received. Those who have been successful in getting through the first stages of the process will be invited to attend a selection day which will include a variety of assessments and exercises that will bring the best talent into our business.”
Over the course of a year trainees will take part in a mix of classroom-based and ‘on the job’ learning at different locations on the east coast route. Modules range from track safety, understanding operational route risks and emergency situations to getting to know the traction they will be driving.
New recruits also go through rigorous immersive practical learning including driving Virgin Trains’ state of the art simulator in order to familiarise themselves with the cab and build train handling experience.
When they launch in 2018, the 65 Azuma trains, built in the UK by Hitachi, will be amongst the most advanced trains on the UK’s rail network.
Virgin Trains east coast (VTEC) to offer a range of milk drinks for customers on the moo-ve!
Virgin Trains is supporting a Tyneside-based start-up business and offering customers a new range of healthy milk drinks on-board its east coast services. ‘Canny Milk’ is the creation of Newcastle businessman Liam Watson and uses natural flavourings to help create the selection of fun milk drinks.
‘Canny Milks’ comes in a variety of flavours including strawberry, chocolate, vanilla and banana. The product is gluten free, uses British Red Tractor semi-skimmed milk, and joins a new line-up of Standard Class food, snacks and drinks onboard Virgin Trains, which promises to transform the onboard dining and shopping experience for customers.
Around 80 people will be employed at Widnes for the duration of the project and will be trained at Alstom’s North West Transport Training Academy, which will be built at the site. It will open in autumn 2017 to provide training in engineering, manufacturing, project management and other vital transport sector skills.
“Repainting the iconic Pendolino fleet is a significant win for us. Not only does it cement our longstanding relationship with Virgin Trains, but it will also be the very first piece of work that will take place at our new site in Widnes once it is complete. We are excited to be expanding our presence in the region through our site at Widnes, which we hope will become a modern, efficient rail hub for the whole of our UK operations,” said Rob Whyte, Managing Director – Regional & Intercity at Alstom UK & Ireland.
Repainting takes place once the fleet reaches the half way point of its lifecycle. It involves completely stripping the trains of exterior paintworks and other exterior fixtures and fittings to inspect for minor damage, before undertaking necessary repair work and applying new layers of paint one at a time. This work prevents further exterior wear and tear as well as rusting and corrosion.
The Pendolino trains were built in the UK by Alstom for the West Coast Main Line route. Alstom maintains the entire fleet at its specialist Traincare Centres in Wembley, Wolverhampton, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow under a train service agreement that is funded by the Department for Transport under the terms and conditions of its franchise agreement with Virgin Trains.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, unveiled the first of the new trains at London King's Cross.
They will be named Virgin Azuma, which is the Japanese translation for "east".
A new fleet of trains with faster acceleration will cut journey times on the East Coast Main Line by up to 22 minutes, Virgin Trains has said.
The trains, which will be launched in 2018, will enable passengers to travel between London and Edinburgh in four hours.
They will accelerate from 0-125mph around a minute quicker than the current fleet.
The 65 new trains will be built by Japanese firm Hitachi at its manufacturing plant in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.
A £21 million refurbishment programme is under way on Virgin Trains East Coast’s 45 trains, with the first due to be released ready for the new Sunderland services starting on December 14.
Despite Intercity Express Programme trains replacing the entire High Speed Train fleet by the end of 2019, as well as all but a handful of Class 91/Mk 4 sets, VTEC is committed to spending £40m on the fleets.
The operator said that 401 carriages will be overhauled. This involves replacing 24,123 seats and fitting refurbished toilets, new carpets and curtains. First Class carriages will be fitted with leather seats.
THE latest new livery for the 152-year-old Flying Scotsman train service was unveiled October 28th 2015 by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC).
The new livery comes as the rebranding of the east coast train fleet nears completion after VTEC, which is 90 per cent Stagecoach-controlled, took over the franchise in March.
Ms Sturgeon, speaking at Waverley Station in Edinburgh, said: “For over 150 years the Flying Scotsman service has connected Edinburgh and London by the historic East Coast rail route. “It is wonderful to see the name of the Flying Scotsman train kept alive on the route with a new, contemporary design.
VTEC managing director David Horne said: “We are thrilled to continue the legendary name of the Flying Scotsman.
“Flying Scotsman trains brought style to the railways for many years. Our new train is a design twist on the legendary Flying Scotsman, recreating the glamour of rail travel for the 21st century, using our distinctive Virgin brand and style.”