Sir Richard Branson’s Vision for UK Rail

By Virgin Trains, PRNE
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

LONDON, December 7, 2011 -

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group, today (7th December) set out his vision for continuing growth for rail travel in the UK and potentially overseas as Virgin Trains welcomed record numbers of passengers. Sir Richard joined staff and customers in a celebration at Euston station.

Virgin Trains is expected to carry 30 million customers in the current year, more than double the number seven years ago.

Sir Richard said that innovation and quality had been key drivers in growing passenger numbers on West Coast and made clear that a strong bid would be submitted when the franchise comes up for renewal in 2012.  ”Bids should be a beauty parade of innovation and quality and not simply judged on bottom line results.  If you just go for the bottom line you will have the cheapest of everything and that’s not what people want. We are waiting to see whether the new franchise will be based purely on the bottom line, but are hopeful that the Government will be taking innovative ideas into account.”

Sir Richard was speaking alongside Sir Brian Souter, Chairman of Stagecoach Group, Patrick Kron, Chairman and Chief Executive of Alstom, and Tony Collins, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Rail Group.          

Asked about plans for UK High Speed rail Sir Richard said there were many good points about HS2 and that Virgin would like to be involved in discussions about developing plans for urgently needed extra capacity.  Tony Collins added: “We desperately need extra capacity in the rail network and anything that gives us that extra capacity has to be a good thing.”  He added that to be a success a new High Speed route would need to be connected to the existing network.

Sir Richard said there were potential opportunities overseas, where other Governments had seen the success of Britain’s railways and were currently looking at opportunities to involve the private sector.

Alstom’s Patrick Kron praised Virgin Trains for helping his organisation change from an engineering into a full service company.  He went on to say that Alstom always uses Virgin Trains as the showcase for other potential customers. “I’m proud of the fact that other operators from around the World visit our UK operations to see how we work together with Virgin,” he said.  

Notes to editors

Since 1997 we have…

  • Introduced over 70 new trains, at a cost of £1.5 billion.
  • Provided the most frequent long-distance service in Europe (London - Manchester and London - Birmingham, both every 20 minutes).
  • Improved passenger facilities at stations, and added 5,000 car parking spaces.
  • Slashed journey times - Manchester is now 2 hours 8 minutes from London, down from 2 hours 30 minutes.
  • Launched the first internet rail ticket scheme and the first FastTicket machines.
  • Reduced packaging and waste, and introduced FairTrade and responsibly-sourced food.
  • Installed Wi-Fi on all of our trains.
  • Removed the need to visit a ticket office with print-at-home e-tickets.
  • Developed use of on board energy meters to minimise energy use through eco-driving.

In 2011…

  • We carry 30 million passengers a year.
  • We sell over 650,000 heavily discounted Advance tickets a month.
  • Our website’s Best Fare Finder is used by 300,000 customers a month.
  • Again we achieved a 90 per cent overall satisfaction score in National Passenger Survey, the highest of long-distance franchise operators
  • We have 60,000 Facebook and Twitter followers.
  • The total we have raised for CLIC Sargent, to help ease the burden of childhood cancer on children, young people and their families, has reached £400,000.

Note to Editors:

A picture accompanying this release is available through the PA Photowire. It can be downloaded from or viewed at or

For further media information contact the Virgin Trains Press Office on 0845-000-3333 or visit our Media Room website at

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