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Virgin Trains to Continue Running West Coast Services

LONDON, December 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

Virgin Rail Group (VRG) was today appointed as operator of the InterCity West Coast franchise under a contract to operate the network from 9 December.

The contract is for the period from the end of the current franchise on 9 December 2012 to 8 November 2014. The agreement may be terminated earlier if a new long-term franchise is ready to commence prior to 9 November 2014.

Under the new agreement, VRG will initially earn a fee equivalent to 1% of revenue with the Department for Transport (DfT) taking the risk that revenue and/or costs differ from those currently expected. However, VRG and the DfT have also agreed to seek to negotiate revised commercial terms that would see VRG take greater revenue and cost risk for the period to 8 November 2014.

Trains will continue to operate under the Virgin Trains brand name, serving London, the Midlands, the North West, north Wales and Scotland.

The announcement coincides with a new timetable for Scotland that begins next Monday, offering an hourly service between London and Glasgow for the first time, following 50% growth in customer numbers on the route in the last three years.

Virgin Trains has increased the capacity of many of its Pendolino trains in recent months by more than 150 Standard Class seats, which is equivalent to 28,000 Standard Class seats a day. This represents a 42% increase in Pendolino Standard Class capacity.

World-leading growth has seen customer numbers double to 31 million in six years. The project run by VRG to add 106 new carriages to meet this demand has been delivered on time and on budget.

The announcement means continued stability on the successful franchise and follows widespread support from customers, who have pressed for Virgin Trains to remain as the operator of the West Coast network. Virgin Trains scores higher than any other long-distance franchise in the National Passenger Survey, with 91% of customers saying they are satisfied with the service.

Following the agreement with the DfT, VRG will add improvements to services, including better station facilities, onboard enhancements and an improved compensation scheme for customers who suffer delayed journeys. The detail will be discussed with the DfT in the coming weeks.

Tony Collins, CEO of VRG, said: "I'm delighted that we have an agreement with the Department for Transport that gives us the chance to continue providing high quality services to our customers. We have had great support from staff and customers in recent months and we will repay that loyalty with even better service.

"We will not be sitting back in the coming months, but are keen to introduce more improvements to the service, which is already the most popular long-distance service in the country. We are proud of what we have achieved since 1997, but there is undoubtedly more to come and we will work closely with the Department for Transport to bring even better services in future."

Notes to Editors

Visit our Media Room website - http://www.virgintrains.co.uk/about/media-room/ - for an Image Library of pictures of Virgin Trains and the company's operations, or to subscribe to receive alerts to new press releases.

Virgin Trains is the brand name of Virgin Rail Group (VRG), which is owned 51 percent by Virgin Group and 49 percent by Stagecoach. We have operated the West Coast passenger train franchise since 1997.

Virgin Trains has been recognised in numerous industry awards. In 2011 the company was named Best Rail Operator in the Group Leisure Awards (which we also won in 2009 and 2010). In 2011 Virgin Trains won the British Quality Foundation's Achievement Award for Customer Satisfaction. In 2010 we were 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. In 2009 we were voted Best UK Domestic Train Service by Business Traveller magazine for the second year running.

Virgin Trains first achieved Investors In People accreditation in 2007 and this was renewed in 2010; the IIP Gold award was achieved in 2011. In May 2011 Virgin Trains was awarded accreditation against the criteria of the European Foundation for Quality Management's (EFQM) Excellence Model. The company's Learning and Development team won a National Training Awards 2011 West Midlands award for its Coaching Culture programme.

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