Virgin West Coast Open Access Application

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DynamicSpirit

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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!
It did cross my mind too that maybe this is a publicity stunt (assuming it's even been reported accurately). I'm less cynical about Virgin - I don't think they are too bad as an operator. But this proposal seems so unlikely to be accepted (no paths on the WCML, probably no stock to run it with - and it's obvious that it would abstract revenue from the London-Liverpool market) - that I can't think of any other plausible likely motive.
 

CosherB

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I find the final sentence of the LE article interesting, if true:

"Virgin hopes the new services will generate £50m revenue each year, with the partnership to also involve Stagecoach, SNCF and Alstom."

Isn't this the bidding team for the WCP that Virgin fronted?
 

Jorge Da Silva

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GB71

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Firstly let me be clear I think VTWC is OK as an operator and I have no particular issue at all on travelling with them. My issue with it is simply that Virgin are by their nature a superb PR machine. I remember the last time when they thought First was taking Virgin's cash cow and travelling in first class we were subjected to the not so subtle Virgin-ism's in first class of miniatures of port being served with the cheese on the dinner service and ice creams being given out - all so we knew how wonderful Virgin was.

As someone who travelled regularly on the WCML since the early 90's I don't dispute that it is now a transformed operation - I just take issue with the "brain washing" as I perceive it that somehow without that Virgin magic the WCML would still be like it was in 1997!
 

ForTheLoveOf

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It is a clear fight for survival knowing the imminent WCP announcement.

I suspect the ORR knowing VTWC's consistent rejections of Open Operators applications will throw this one off the cliff.
The ORR could cause yet another lawsuit against the Government if they rejected the application merely because it's totally ironic given Virgin's past objections and protections. But I agree - knowing that the WCP is almost certainly lost (unless circumstances change dramatically), they are probably trying to keep hold of at least some services on the WCML.

It did cross my mind too that maybe this is a publicity stunt (assuming it's even been reported accurately). I'm less cynical about Virgin - I don't think they are too bad as an operator. But this proposal seems so unlikely to be accepted (no paths on the WCML, probably no stock to run it with - and it's obvious that it would abstract revenue from the London-Liverpool market) - that I can't think of any other plausible likely motive.
I agree, and it seems a complete waste of time when you look at the fact that they made a less ambitious application for a few extra trains per day to Liverpool a few months ago, and even this was rejected on the basis of performance risk and a lack of available paths (and rolling stock).

Quite how they expect to get a better result when they're applying for over twice as many this time round, without any of the circumstances having changed (and if they aren't even using 390s, what paths are they seriously proposing to use?), I really don't know. But I imagine that this application is, in truth, not at all serious, and that it's purely intended to provoke PR sympathy for when the "Government overlords" reject it.

In truth I think they should be made to pay the ORR's costs in full, twice over, to compensate them for wasting their time with what is frankly a frivolous application. Remember that it is taxpayers' money that is paying for the ORR to review this waste of time.

I find the final sentence of the LE article interesting, if true:

"Virgin hopes the new services will generate £50m revenue each year, with the partnership to also involve Stagecoach, SNCF and Alstom."

Isn't this the bidding team for the WCP that Virgin fronted?
Yes, it is. Effectively if they can't get in through the front door, they are trying to get in through the back door. It's a very well considered PR move, but it shows the level of dirty tactics Virgin are happy to go to.
 

Japan0913

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No decision on rolling stock. They will NOT use Class 390’s as these are being transferred to WCP.

https://www.railwaygazette.com/news...-rest-of-the-industry-how-it-can-be-done.html
Virgin proposes London-Liverpool open access service

11/06/2019 railmagazine
https://www.railmagazine.com/news/network/virgin-proposes-london-liverpool-open-access-service


・・・・・・
VT will use Class 91s and Mk 4s leased from Eversholt Rail.
These were used by Virgin Trains East Coast, but are being withdrawn this year as Azumas are introduced on the East Coast Main Line.
The trains will be shorter than the current nine-car sets, enabling faster acceleration.
However, because they cannot tilt, they will be restricted to 110mph.
・・・・・・
Is the capacity of the existing line full until HS2 opens?
 

aelius

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It a way it mirrors Stagecoach tactics in the bus industry in the 1980s that led to the end of municipal bus corporations and Stagecoach’s dominance.
 

jw

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I'd be astonished if, firstly, paths were available to support this, and secondly, if this passed the abstraction test.

It's also interesting that they've teamed up with Alstom who presumably would be providing the rolling stock. A small fleet, possibly with tilt, would likely be very expensive.
 

ForTheLoveOf

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What's dirty about it?
Making an application which they will know perfectly well has no chances whatsoever of approval, certainly not before 2026 at the earliest. It's quite clear to me that they are doing it to make them seem the 'downtrodden saviours' of Liverpool (and the WCML's) train service, defeated by the DfT, then by the ORR... they'll be able to make a press killing from the misinformation they'll be able to produce out of the inevitable rejection.
 

swt_passenger

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Isn't open access a condition that does not threaten franchiser's business?
Open access is not supposed to be “primarily abstractive” of a franchised TOCs revenue. But within that requirement it can still compete for existing revenue on a route. It’s a question of balance between growth and abstraction...
 

coppercapped

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It is a clear fight for survival knowing the imminent WCP announcement.

I suspect the ORR knowing VTWC's consistent rejections of Open Operators applications will throw this one off the cliff.
I think you will find that under the conditions of the first sets of franchises the DfT required that franchisees objected to any Open Access application on their patch. In other words as part of the 'Moderation of Competition' clauses the DfT demanded that the franchisee objected - they had no choice.
 

thenorthern

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Given that to achieve 125mph on the WCML trains have to have a tilt function and given that new Class 390s are not an option as they don't comply with new train standards I wonder what the proposal for stock are. Having a small batch of tilting train stock that is compliant with the UK loading gauge and standards would be prohibitively expensive for an open-access operator.

Also I don't see how this would pass the test of not primarily abstracting revenue given that it's duplicating existing services. Also given that many Virgin Trains currently in the daytime are carting fresh air around I don't see how this service could make money.
 

3141

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Alstom have tilt technology (they built the class 390s), and they've been working on a suitable train for HS2 that fits the British loading gauge. Therefore they may feel they are not so far from being able to produce a new tilting train suitable for the WCML, which would not be unreasonably expensive. It's not the trains but the shortage of suitable paths that makes the Virgin proposal seem unlikely to succeed, in my opinion.
 

matt_world2004

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The Supporting infrastructure for this will make it very difficult for it to make money 2 tph existing outside the national rail system would struggle to make money due to the high back office costs per train
 

jamesst

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Anything that appears in the Liverpool Echo automatically leads me to believe it won't happen, they're very well known for printing c**p!
 

JaJaWa

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Given that to achieve 125mph on the WCML trains have to have a tilt function and given that new Class 390s are not an option as they don't comply with new train standards I wonder what the proposal for stock are. Having a small batch of tilting train stock that is compliant with the UK loading gauge and standards would be prohibitively expensive for an open-access operator.
The ex- Virgin Trains East Coast / LNER Class 91s and Mark 4s as mentioned above (limited to 110mph).
 

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