Virgin West Coast Open Access Application

andyj158

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A possible development on the WCML...

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/could-soon-two-fast-london-16407336

There could soon be two fast trains an hour between Liverpool and London after an application was lodged for 24 more services each day.

It's not yet known exactly how long the new Virgin Trains would take, but stopping at Lichfield, Tamworth, Nuneaton and Liverpool South Parkway, it would be "not far off" the current duration of just over two hours taken by the firm's West Coast trains.

Virgin say the new services, hoped to launch in May 2021, would be the "most advanced and customer-focused" trains, and the transport giant has lodged an 'open access' application to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

The firm also claimed the new trains would be "unique" to the UK rail industry.

That's because every ticket would be guaranteed to be at least 10% cheaper than the equivalent offered by competitors - including, in this case, the London Northwestern Railway services operated by West Midlands Trains, which generally take around four hours.
Liverpool Lime Street Station

Each one would also come with a seat reservation for a particular service, meaning everyone is guaranteed a seat - "the only rail service in the UK to guarantee no overcrowding in normal operations".

The provider said if there was disruption on the network and services were busier than normal, passengers who can't get a seat would get a "full refund" of their ticket.

Phil Whittingham, MD of Virgin Trains, said: “Virgin Trains has led the UK rail industry for 22 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.”

According to Virgin, there would also be free Wi-Fi on all services, free films and TV on board, and at-seat on-demand catering services.
 
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superalbs

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There could soon be two fast trains an hour between Liverpool and London after an application was lodged for 24 more services each day.

It's not yet known exactly how long the new Virgin Trains would take, but stopping at Lichfield, Tamworth, Nuneaton and Liverpool South Parkway, it would be "not far off" the current duration of just over two hours taken by the firm's West Coast trains.

Virgin say the new services, hoped to launch in May 2021, would be the "most advanced and customer-focused" trains, and the transport giant has lodged an 'open access' application to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

The firm also claimed the new trains would be "unique" to the UK rail industry.

That's because every ticket would be guaranteed to be at least 10% cheaper than the equivalent offered by competitors - including, in this case, the London Northwestern Railway services operated by West Midlands Trains, which generally take around four hours.
Liverpool Lime Street Station

Each one would also come with a seat reservation for a particular service, meaning everyone is guaranteed a seat - "the only rail service in the UK to guarantee no overcrowding in normal operations".

The provider said if there was disruption on the network and services were busier than normal, passengers who can't get a seat would get a "full refund" of their ticket.

Phil Whittingham, MD of Virgin Trains, said: “Virgin Trains has led the UK rail industry for 22 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.”

According to Virgin, there would also be free Wi-Fi on all services, free films and TV on board, and at-seat on-demand catering services.
So as to comply with forum rules.
 

CICERO55

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Not sure if this would happen since virgin trains were refused in their request to operate more Liverpool to London trains from June this year by network rail. Also if it was to happen what trains would they use since they couldn’t use the current fleet used for the ICWC franchise.
 

TUC

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Rather ironic given the number of years a Virgin were protected from competition on the WCML, leading to the much higher fares on it compared to the ECML.
 

TheDavibob

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It got my hopes up about another service stopping at the principal Trent Valley stations, but of course reservations would limit opportunities for short hops (Nuneaton - Lichfield/Tamworth). Still would be a boon for Lichfield and Tamworth, which could easily support additional services, especially with consistent northbound opportunities beyond Crewe.
 

DarloRich

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Interesting Virgin have decided to use an Open Access route however it is a shame this service wont stop at MK where there is some real money to be made rather than small towns further north. Extracting revenue from the franchised operators seems to be the raison d'etre for OA services ( which we benefit from via fare competition) so why not go for the money. GC don't stop at York for fun!

I am sure there will be lots of media/ RUK fanboying over this
 

Bletchleyite

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It says starting in 2021, which means they would have be ordering new stock probably in the next few months, if not already - unless they are planning on using cascaded stock?
It appears from the consortium that they would want to use spare Class 390s.

Interesting that they are proposing compulsory reservations and presumably not taking part in RSP/ORCATS as a result. I've long wondered why an OAO didn't try that, it would be an interesting experiment.

10% cheaper than LNR? I can see LNR calling them on that with some very cheap Advances, though the walk-ups are cheap enough! (LNR long distance walk ups are cheap enough that without seat reservations many people won't even consider Advances, so the impact on them of doing this might be low).
 

Jorge Da Silva

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It appears from the consortium that they would want to use spare Class 390s.

Interesting that they are proposing compulsory reservations and presumably not taking part in RSP/ORCATS as a result. I've long wondered why an OAO didn't try that, it would be an interesting experiment.
Was that the old application (Virgin West Coast) or the new application (open access operator)??
 

Jorge Da Silva

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The only thing I can see an objection to is the amount of paths available thats it. LNWR’s Liverpool route is not exactly competitive though its Crewe service might be affected and WCP’s service calls at Stafford, Crewe, Runcorn and Liverpool Lime Street but Virgin’s Open Access service calls at: Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield Trent Valley, Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street. WCP and Virgin only share Lime Street and Euston the rest is different. LNWR might be the only issue.
 

DynamicSpirit

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It appears from the consortium that they would want to use spare Class 390s.
There are spare pendolinos? And if there are, wouldn't they be better used on some of the London-Birmingham-Glasgow workings that are currently run as Voyagers despite being on electric track the whole route?
 

ivanhoe

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Interesting. Could give good connections to Leicester at Nuneaton and Derby,Burton at Tamworth. Man at seat 61 raises the interesting question of other operators tickets and Savers being made available on such services. Would it need DFT dispensation if it was Virgin only.
 

Bletchleyite

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I can confirm I generally don't bother getting advance tickets from Crewe to London any more, just walk up and get an off-peak or super off-peak return with LNWR.
Though at the minute I'm pushed back to VT by the poor reliability. And I was vindicated yesterday - the train I would have used had I used LNR was cancelled, though with a delay of minimum 1hr I would at least have got a nice big chunk of Delay Repay.
 

island

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Interesting Virgin have decided to use an Open Access route however it is a shame this service wont stop at MK where there is some real money to be made rather than small towns further north. Extracting revenue from the franchised operators seems to be the raison d'etre for OA services ( which we benefit from via fare competition) so why not go for the money.
That is precisely what OAOs are not allowed to do. They need to show they will create new demand, not abstract revenue from an existing franchise.
 

GB71

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I have been a long term sceptic of most things Virgin. Very ordinary by and large but with what has to be respected as a phenomenal brand and an unbelievable PR machine. I may well be proven wrong, but I suspect nothing but a PR stunt by Virgin. Good old Virgin the consumer's champion - knowing full well that they won't get to operate this either because of a lack of rolling stock or line capacity. And then we'll get the usual tirade of how Virgin are trying to challenge the status quo (which they've very happily been part of for over 20 years) and being blocked.

I hope I am wrong but I now consider myself a professional sceptic of all things Virgin - trains or otherwise!
 

Bletchleyite

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I have been a long term sceptic of most things Virgin. Very ordinary by and large but with what has to be respected as a phenomenal brand and an unbelievable PR machine. I may well be proven wrong, but I suspect nothing but a PR stunt by Virgin. Good old Virgin the consumer's champion - knowing full well that they won't get to operate this either because of a lack of rolling stock or line capacity. And then we'll get the usual tirade of how Virgin are trying to challenge the status quo (which they've very happily been part of for over 20 years) and being blocked.

I hope I am wrong but I now consider myself a professional sceptic of all things Virgin - trains or otherwise!
Though fundamentally when you strip the glitz and talking bogs away, VTWC is a pretty solid operation these days. I do hope whoever replaces them doesn't do anything stupid pre-HS2 (c.f. WMT or Northern) and wreck it.
 

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