New London train services from Sunderland and Sterling introduced by Virgin Trains

Virgin Trains East Coast launched a new range of services to London yesterday from Stirling and Sunderland in response to passenger demand for more early morning departures, Rail Technology Magazine has reported.

A number of local dignitaries travelled on-board both inaugural services, with the rail minister, Claire Perry MP, meeting the new Sunderland service at London King’s Cross Station. She also named the Virgin Train ‘Spirit of Sunderland’.

David Horne, managing director of Virgin Trains on its east coast route, said: ‘This is a hugely exciting day for us as we launch more services, and add Sunderland to the Virgin rail map.’

Virgin Trains has also announced that with immediate effect that it will operate a new evening service between Hull and Doncaster. The new service is intended to open up new travel opportunities for customers seeking to travel to London.

Perry said: ‘It is fantastic to see the start of these new services from Sunderland and Stirling. As a one nation government, we know that transport doesn’t just help hardworking people get around, it helps them get on.

‘These new services will provide better journeys for customers and boost economic ties between Scotland, the north east and London, stimulating growth and helping rebalance our economy.’

A fleet of 65 new Virgin Trains will also be introduced on the East Coast Main Line from 2018 under the Intercity Express Programme. These trains are being built by Hitachi at its plant in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.



Sunderland to London


Sunderland dep: 05:40


London King’s Cross arr: 09.08


Stirling to London


Stirling dep: 05:26


London King’s Cross arr: 10.52


Hull to Doncaster


Hull dep: 20:28


Brough dep: 20:42


Selby dep: 21:03


Doncaster dep: 21.22

Eurostar reports 2014 growth in revenue and passenger numbers, new e320 trains in service this year

Eurostar, the high-speed railway service that connects the UK with mainland Europe via the Channel Tunnel, has today reported growth in both revenue and passenger numbers for 2014.

For its 20th anniversary of operation, the company has reported year-on-year growth of three percent in passenger numbers, while business travel increased by four percent year-on year. Eurostar also announced its new e320 trains during 2014, and they will be entering service by the end of the year.

Last year 10.4 million passengers travelled on Eurostar, taking the company’s total passenger number since the start of services in 1994 to over 150 million. 2014 sales revenues increased by one percent, to GBP867 million.

Eurostar stated that this performance was underpinned, in particular, by the strong recovery in the UK economy, which also led to an increase in business travel bookings throughout the year.

In 2014, Eurostar also unveiled its state of the art new e320 train at St Pancras International station. With the e320 due to enter commercial service at the end of this year, the company says that passengers can look forward to an unparalleled level of style, comfort and service.

Nicolas Petrovic, chief executive of Eurostar, said: ‘2014 was a pivotal year for our business as we celebrated our 20th anniversary and unveiled our new fleet. Our new e320 trains are now in the final months of testing and on schedule to come into commercial service at the end of this year. As we introduce new trains, upgrade our stations and invest in our service, passengers can look forward to a complete transformation of their travel experience.’


Manchester Airport station set to close for three weeks in January

The railway station at Manchester Airport will close for three weeks in the New Year as work to complete the new fourth platform is carried out, the Lancashire Evening Post has reported.

In order to accommodate the new platform work – which also includes finishing platform improvements with new CCTV and information screens – only two platforms will be in use between Sunday 11th and Saturday 17th January. The station will then be closed to all trains until Monday 9th February.

In January, travellers will face disruption and may have to find alternative ways to reach the airport as Network Rail begins to install the new track and signalling. The authorities will be providing information on replacement buses shortly, the report said.

Wayne Poole, director of passenger services for Manchester Airport, said: ‘We’ll be working with the variety of partners that are involved in the fourth platform works to minimise disruption during the station closures.

We continue to work with transport providers to look at ways to further enhance access to the airport.’

Ian Joslin, area director for Network Rail, said: ‘While there is never a good time to close the railway we have worked closely with the airport, Metrolink and train operators to complete this work at a time which will impact the fewest numbers of passengers and I apologise for any short-term inconvenience while we deliver these long-term benefits.’

Transport for Greater Manchester’s Metrolink director, Peter Cushing, said: ‘With the opening of the new airport line in November, the new heavy rail fourth platform will represent an excellent example of heavy and light rail integration at one of the best road and rail connected airports in the country.

‘We are grateful to both Metrolink and rail passengers for their patience while this, ultimately, beneficial work is carried out.’

The platform upgrade, which is part of the £1bn+ investment in the railway, will allow extra services to call at the airport and provide passengers with better access from across the north of England.

Heathrow western rail access to benefit passengers and businesses

Network Rail has announced plans for a preferred new rail route linking the Great Western Main Line with London Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport; a move that is intended to benefit passengers and businesses from the Thames Valley to the West Country and Wales.

Presently, the Great Western Main Line runs from Swansea, through Cardiff, before heading to Reading and London Paddington. Under the new plans, rail passengers travelling from the west of Reading will not need to double-back on the tracks via Paddington.

With the proposed link, passengers in Cardiff and Swansea will be able to cut their travel times to Heathrow by up to 45 minutes and 53 minutes respectively, whilst those in Reading may save 27 minutes.

Besides making travel abroad easier for passengers, the plan will also be a potential boost to the economy in the Thames Valley, the M4 corridor, South West England and south Wales, the airport said.

It is claimed that the link will allow businesses to connect directly with Heathrow, and then with the rest of the world, opening up new opportunities for trade. As the UK’s only hub airport, Heathrow combines direct and transfer passengers to support 78 percent of all UK long-haul flights. The improved access offered by the Western Rail link will mean faster, more convenient connections to those markets within another seven years.

Colin Matthews, Heathrow’s chief executive, said: ‘Network Rail’s plans will drive economic growth through improved access to overseas markets. Heathrow is already in a better location than any other UK airport. Western Rail access will build on that strength, helping to make sure that the whole of the UK benefits from the growth opportunities global connectivity brings.’

Court case to benefit Britain’s train commuters

The ruling in a landmark court case on season ticket charges is likely to benefit Britain’s hundreds of train passengers, according to a report by the Telegraph.

The ruling in favour of a passenger travelling into London from St Albans could result in regular commuters saving over £700 a year by buying their season ticket from a different station. However train operators are now looking to fix ‘loopholes’ that could otherwise force them to cut the cost of season tickets.

The complainant, Andrew Myers, successfully sued First Capital Connect after he found he was paying £700 more than the cheapest available ticket on his route. Mr. Myers, who works in the City, found that a season ticket from Watford North, costing £3,068 a year, was valid for travel via St Albans into London, for which he was paying £3,800.

First Capital Connect claimed that it was due to a ‘loophole’ in the route planner, which puts St Albans on the route into London from Watford, even though it was further away from the capital. The company had initially sought to settle the case out of court, subject to a ‘non disclosure’ order, but Mr. Myers decided to sue the company.

Mr. Myers won the case and has also been awarded costs against the company by the court, which ordered FCC to pay £2,193.

According to a spokesman for FCC, Mr. Myers has uncovered a ‘previously unknown historic routing guide error’, in force since the days of British Rail.

Roy Cooper, FCC’s fares and pricing manager, said he had asked the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) to close the loophole as ‘this could set a precedent and cause other similar claims’.

David Sidebottom, a director of the consumer watchdog Passenger Focus, said in the Telegraph: ‘We’re disappointed to see that in this case the company continued to resist making a speedy apology and provide recompense to the passenger, when internally it had already accepted it was wrong.’

An ATOC spokesman said: ‘This is an example of a very obscure error in a system that offers millions of tickets for travel between more than 2,500 stations. If other such errors are found, we will look to correct them to ensure that all passengers are treated fairly.’

Network Rail warned over delays, poor maintenance

The UK rail regulator has wanred Network Rail, the company responsible for maintaining the country’s track infrastructure, for failing to maintain the rail track infrastructure causing significant delays and inconvenience to passengers.

‘The company is falling short of expectations at the moment,’ said Richard Price, the chief executive of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR). ‘It is facing many problems of its own making, having failed to deliver plans to renew Britain’s rail network, with delayed works now affecting performance,’ he added.

According to a report by The Telegraph, the ORR has also warned the rail company that it will be fined significantly if it does not improve upon its performance. The rail regulator has accused the company of negligence and failing to renew tracks, causing a seven per cent rise in incidents leading to delays and cancellations.

Rail minister Norman Baker reportedly said that he was ‘dismayed’ by Network Rail’s performance. ‘Fare payers and tax payers are investing heavily in the future of the railways and they need to have the confidence that Network Rail is maximising the impact every pound has,’ Baker said, adding that he will insist an improvement when he meets Sir David Higgins, the chief executive of Network Rail.

David Sidebottom, the director of the consumer regulator, Passenger Focus, commented: ‘Passengers are now the main funders of the railway, so it is even more crucial they can expect a reliable service. Network Rail needs to work hard to improve its performance and to rebuild trust within the industry and with the public.’

A total of 25,852 long distance trains were either more than half an hour late or cancelled completely in the first quarter of this year, compared with 21,960 last year. The percentage of trains which arrived on time also fell between April and July this year, compared with the same period 12 months ago.

‘Although we have been unable to reach these tough targets, today half a million more trains arrive at their destination on time compared with five years ago, carrying tens of millions more passengers. Train performance is still, by historical standards, at a high level – last year was the third best year ever recorded – but we know we can do better, especially on our long-distance routes,’ Network Rail said.

Network Rail announce major changes to London Bridge train services in 2014

Network Rail has advised passengers of planned changes to train services in and out of London Bridge during August 2014, which will affect First Capital Connect, Southern and some Southeastern services.

The major change to services for nine days between August 23 and 31, 2014, will allow Network Rail to complete the essential track improvements on the approach to the station. The rail network is also planning major line closures in addition to the widely advertised, phased platform closures.

Under the planned changes for next August, no Southern services will call at London Bridge, some First Capital Connect services will be rescheduled and some Southeastern services may be altered. A year’s notice is being given to allow passengers to prepare or make alternative travel arrangements.

Dave Ward, Network Rail’s route managing director for London and the south east said: ‘Rebuilding London Bridge is the biggest engineering challenge taking place on the railway and one of the most important stages of the Thameslink project which will unlock capacity through central London and beyond.

‘We have widely advertised the phased platform closures taking place but we also need a number of shorter, temporary closures to safely carry out extensive track work. The alternative to this would be significantly more periods of short closures over many weekends, which would cause much more disruption to passengers.

‘We are working closely with the train operating companies and Transport for London to provide information as early as possible and passengers can be reassured that everything is being done to keep disruption to a minimum.’

Network Rail has collaborated with the train companies to organise line closures over bank holidays and at other times of the year when train travel is traditionally at a lower rate. Underground and bus services will continue to serve as normal throughout the closures.

To inform passengers of the changes to train services, an exhibition is being organised at London Bridge during the week beginning September 2, 2013. The exhibition will also visit East Croydon station on September 17-18, and Brighton station on September 22-25.

In a joint statement, train operators First Capital Connect, Southern and Southeastern said: ‘The September station exhibition is another opportunity for us to talk with passengers about the Thameslink Programme.

‘We’re working together and with Network Rail and Transport for London to develop alternative travel arrangements for passengers and are committed to sharing this as far in advance as possible.

‘The Thameslink website – – is where passengers can keep up to date with the Thameslink Programme and sign up for email alerts about changes that matter to them.’

The London Bridge station revamp is part of the GBP6bn Thameslink programme underway on the railway network. On completion in 2018, the redevelopment will see up to 24 trains per hour travelling through central London.

UK government urges rail companies to address overcrowding

The UK government is urging rail companies to efficiently address the issue of overcrowding during peak hours.

Norman Baker, the UK rail minister, is writing to the major train operating companies asking them to be more transparent about overcrowded trains and to encourage passengers to travel at less busy times, The Guardian reports.

The move comes after the government faced criticism earlier this month when it announced that rail fares in England would increase by an average of 4.1 percent in January next year.

According to data from the Department for Transport, passengers on some morning and evening peak services were travelling on trains that are carrying 60 percent more people than they were designed for. Consumer groups have also voiced concerns that commuters were being pushed to the limit by an unacceptable combination of overcrowded trains and rising ticket prices.

Citing the case of London Midland, Baker is now urging train companies to highlight crowded trains on their timetables, enabling passengers to choose alternative services during peak hours. London Midland, which runs trains between London and Birmingham and the north-west, appropriately colour-codes trains using a red, amber and green ‘traffic light’ system.

‘Publication of train-by-train crowding information is, in the short term, an important tool for allowing passengers to make informed choices about which trains to travel on, and convincing those passengers who can change their travel patterns to do so,’ Baker said, adding: ‘The innovative approach taken by London Midland is helping to smooth the peaks in demand for their services and is making the most of the investment going into rail services in their area. I am keen to see the rail industry working together to follow London Midland’s example.’

Baker also said that the government has ruled out fare increases at peak times. ‘We have ruled out making further increases to fares at the very busiest times and we are investing record amounts in improvements to the network, but where it is simply not possible to increase services, encouraging passengers to change their travel patterns is the best way to tackle a crowded network,’ Baker remarked.


Virgin Trains to launch ‘high speed’ book signings

Virgin Trains is set to launch the UK’s first ever on board ‘high speed’ book signings on its West Coast route in autumn this year.

For the ‘High Speed Book Signings’, a host of celebrated authors have confirmed participation, including Scandi-crime writer, Jo Nesbo, the British writer, Joanna Trollope, who is launching The Austen Project with a reworking of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, and comedian and author, Ruby Wax.

All of the participating authors have either recently launched or will soon be launching their new books and will offer Virgin Trains’ passengers an exclusive opportunity to own a signed copy. The book signings will take place in Coach G, the First Class carriage closest to Standard Class. Travellers will be informed over the on-board announcement system and invited to buy a book before meeting the author for a personalised copy.

Commenting on the launch of the Book Singings programme, Jim Rowe, senior communications manager for Virgin Trains said, ‘Authors routinely travel the country to book signing sessions so we thought why not use the time travelling to sign some more. It is a fact: nowhere else will our authors sign books faster than on our Virgin high speed trains.’

Virgin Trains runs at a speed of up to 125mph between 45 West Coast stations from London Euston to Glasgow including Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. The authors will be travelling on various routes over the autumn months.

Effective from September 1, Virgin Trains Facebook page will provide passengers with details of when their favourite authors will be on board.

Virgin Trains is part of the Virgin Rail Group, which is owned jointly by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Management and Stagecoach Group plc, an international public transport group with operations in the UK, USA and Canada. The partnership claims to have transformed a struggling rail artery into the UK’s most used long-distance route. Running from London to major cities in England and through to Scotland, Virgin Trains now claims to provide a genuine alternative to the plane and the car.

Railway investment boosts businesses in Britain

Railway investment has resulted in more than £3.2bn of work for businesses across Britain over the last year, according to data by Network Rail.

The rail improvement schemes undertaken by Network Rail included the redevelopments of King’s Cross, Reading and Birmingham New Street stations, Crossrail, the Thameslink Programme upgrade and several other projects to improve stations, lengthen platforms and build new railway. According to the Network Rail data, nearly one third of the £1.2bn spent in 2012-13 has benefited small and medium-sized businesses, sustaining over 90,000 full-time jobs nationally, in addition to the 34,000 workers that are directly employed by Network Rail.

Chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said: ‘Investing in infrastructure has a direct effect on the economy, creating jobs, and giving Britain the infrastructure we need to build a stronger economy and fairer society…. We have set out £100bn of investment in infrastructure over the next Parliament, including supporting the largest programme of investment in rail since the Victorian era. I’m very glad to see that Network Rail is doing their bit to drive sustainable and balanced economic growth across the UK.’

Simon Kirby, managing director of Network Rail Infrastructure Projects, said: ‘The rail industry is increasingly recognised as a key contributor to our national, economic and social well-being. Across Britain, investment in a bigger, better railway has provided a massive boost to hundreds of businesses of all shapes and sizes, supporting sustainable economic growth and jobs.’

The railway’s supply chain ranges from professional services to the construction industry, and rail investment helps sustain jobs across the UK’s many industrial sectors. In the last four years, Network Rail has generated GBP17.3bn of work for its supply chain, of which GBP6.2bn has been with small and medium-sized businesses – a 22 percent increase on the previous four years.

Simon Kirby said, ‘Network Rail will have a pivotal role to play in driving sustainable economic growth over the next five years, with plans to add 700 more trains each day between the key cities of the north, increase London’s rail capacity by 20%, build new lines to increase capacity in Scotland and electrify hundreds of miles of railway so cleaner, faster trains can run. By continuing to invest in rail, we are investing in the future of Britain,’

Between 2014 and 2019, the planned expenditure for enhancements and renewals is nearly £25bn, with 99 percent of this work to be undertaken by UK-based companies.