"Time to Think Big", Says Virgin

By Virgin Rail Group, PRNE
Thursday, February 17, 2011

LONDON, February 18, 2011 - Virgin Rail Group (VRG) has submitted its application to bid for the West
Coast Mainline franchise, which is scheduled to start in April 2012.

A bid team has been created under Paul Furze-Waddock, Business
Development Director, as VRG aims to continue the massive success of recent
years, which has seen the West Coast franchise operate the fastest-growing
route in Britain.

Under Virgin Rail Group, the West Coast franchise has doubled customer
numbers to 28 million in the last six years and now has the highest
satisfaction rating of any long-distance franchise, at 90 per cent, as
measured by independent watchdog Passenger Focus.

"There has been great progress in recent years and we are all committed
to trying to continue that momentum," said Tony Collins, CEO, "and we plan to
submit an exciting and deliverable bid if we are given the opportunity.

"Despite the huge improvements, we certainly don't think the work has
finished and the bid team is brimming with exciting ideas to take this
franchise to an even higher level.

"We have been encouraged by the public commitment by the Prime Minister
and Transport Secretary, to continue investing in key infrastructure projects
to drive forward the economic recovery and reduce the North-South economic
divide. The vision shown in 1997 by the then Government and shareholders when
we started this franchise is now delivering the results we all hoped for.

"Investment, innovation and pioneering thinking will take this franchise
forward, paying money to the taxpayer and improving customer service even
further. The Government's plans for high speed rail have shown there is
political vision, and growth on the West Coast franchise will be crucial in
delivering that vision. It is a chance to think big."

VRG's application consists of a complex Pre-Qualification Questionnaire,
which all potential bidders must complete, before a shortlist is drawn up and
a full invitation to tender is published.

The proposed timetable for bidding, published by the Department for
Transport, is as follows:

18 February 2011: Bidders must submit their completed application to bid
(the 'PQQ')

29 March 2011: DfT announces the shortlisted bidders

10 May 2011: Bidders receive the Invitation to Tender (ITT)

17 August 2011: Bids are submitted to DfT

05 December 2011: Announcement of winning bidder

01 April 2012: Start of new franchise

Notes to editors:

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Virgin Rail Group is the parent company of Virgin Trains. We have
operated the West Coast passenger train franchise since 1997; the current
franchise runs to March 2012. Virgin Trains serves major towns along the West
Coast including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Virgin Rail Group is owned 51 per cent by Virgin Group and 49 per cent by

Virgin Trains has been recognised in numerous industry awards. In 2010
the company was named Best Rail Operator of the Year at the Travel Globe
Awards (voted for by readers of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Evening
Standard), and Best Rail Operator in the Group Leisure Awards (which we also
won in 2009). In 2009 we were also voted Best UK Domestic Train Service by
Business Traveller magazine for the second year running. Virgin Trains first
achieved Investors In People accreditation in 2007and this was renewed in
2010; the IiP Gold award was achieved in 2011.

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