Virgin CrossCountry

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For the present franchise holder of the Cross Country Route, see CrossCountry.
Virgin CrossCountry
Virgin Trains logo.png
Virgin Voyager 220003 2005-06-09 03.jpg
Class 220 Voyager approaching Bristol Temple Meads in June 2005
Overview
Franchise(s): InterCity CrossCountry
6 January 1997 – 10 November 2007
Main route(s): South and South West England - Midlands - Northern England and Scotland
Fleet size: 34 Voyager and 44 Super Voyager sets
National Rail abbreviation: VXC
Parent company: Virgin Group (51%)
Stagecoach (49%)

Virgin CrossCountry[1] was a train operating company in the United Kingdom operating the InterCity CrossCountry franchise from January 1997 until November 2007. Virgin CrossCountry operated some of the longest direct rail services in the United Kingdom but most avoided Greater London. All services called or terminated at Birmingham New Street.

The company traded under the Virgin Trains brand, along with the InterCity West Coast[2] franchise, however the two franchises were operated by separate legal entities.

History[edit]

Mark 2 carriage at Banbury in 2001

Virgin Rail Group was awarded the InterCity CrossCountry franchise in November 1996 with operations commencing on 5 January 1997.[3]

In October 1998 Virgin Group sold 49% of the shares in Virgin Rail Group to Stagecoach.[4]

In the wake of the collapse of Railtrack and the inability of Network Rail to deliver on the 140 mph West Coast Main Line upgrade, both the Virgin CrossCountry and Virgin West Coast franchises were suspended in favour of management contracts in July 2002.[5][6][7]

Services[edit]

In May 1998 Virgin introduced new services from Portsmouth Harbour to Liverpool Lime Street and Blackpool North. The Summer Saturday service to Ramsgate ran for the last time in September 1999.[8] The Summer Saturday services to Weymouth ran for the last time in September 2002.[9]

Operation Princess[edit]

In September 2002 Virgin Trains launched Operation Princess. This involved introducing a new clockface timetable with shorter trains running more frequently. However the new fleet suffered from a number of technical faults which coupled with infrastructure and capacity issues led to endless problems.[10][11] Between September 2002 and January 2003 punctuality fell to 54.1%,[12] it was therefore agreed with the Strategic Rail Authority that certain services would be cut to improve reliability and robustness on the core network.[13]

When Operation Princess was launched in September 2002, Virgin CrossCountry served these destinations:

Code Route Fate
VT0 Birmingham New Street to Swindon via Cheltenham Withdrawn summer 2003[14]
VT1 Glasgow Central, Edinburgh Waverley & Blackpool North through Birmingham New Street to South West of England Blackpool North withdrawn summer 2003[14]
VT2 Aberdeen, Edinburgh Waverley & Newcastle through Manchester Piccadilly and Birmingham New Street to Poole Services south of Bournemouth withdrawn summer 2003[14]
VT3 Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Piccadilly through Birmingham New Street to London Paddington, Portsmouth and Brighton Portsmouth and London Paddington withdrawn summer 2003, reduced frequency to Brighton, all Liverpool Lime Street withdrawn winter 2003[14][15]
VT4 Aberdeen and Edinburgh Waverley through Birmingham New Street to Cardiff, Swansea, Paignton and Penzance Services west of Cardiff withdrawn summer 2003[14]

By the time Virgin Trains lost the CrossCountry franchise bid to Arriva in 2007 the network consisted of only the following routes:

Code Route
VT1 South West of England through Birmingham to the North West and Scotland
VT2 South Coast through Birmingham to the North of England and Scotland
VT3 South West of England and South East Wales through Birmingham to the North East of England and Scotland

Rolling stock[edit]

Virgin inherited a fleet of Class 47s, Class 86s, Mark 2 Carriages, High Speed Trains and Class 158s from British Rail. Class 47s on hire from EWS and Fragonset were also fairly common. A franchise commitment was the replacement of these trains with new stock. In December 1998 Virgin signed a deal to lease 34 four-carriage Class 220 Voyagers and 40 five-carriage and four four-carriage Class 221 Super Voyagers built by Bombardier Transportation.[16] The latter were intended for use by Virgin West Coast on services from London Euston to Holyhead although they ended up being pooled with the other Voyagers. When Virgin West Coast started using Class 221 Super Voyagers on Holyhead services in September 2004, the five-carriage units were used.

The Class 221 Super Voyagers were fitted with equipment allowing them to tilt between Oxford and Banbury[17] and on the West Coast Main Line. The first Class 220 Voyager arrived from Belgium in January 2001 and entered service on 21 May 2001.[18] The last Class 47s, Class 86s and Mark 2 carriages were withdrawn in August 2002.

After experiencing rapid growth Virgin CrossCountry decided to retain some High Speed Trains sets. In December 2001 it announced plans to refurbish eight High Speed Trains as Virgin Challengers for use on proposed services from London Paddington to Manchester Piccadilly via Cheltenham with the option to refurbish more.[19] In the wake of the collapse of Operation Princess, the project was cancelled with the remaining HSTs withdrawn in September 2003 on the instruction of the Strategic Rail Authority.[20]

To provide extra stock for services on Summer Saturday services to Paignton and Newquay, Virgin hired High Speed Trains from GNER, Midland Mainline and Virgin West Coast[21] and Mark 3B loco hauled carriages from Virgin West Coast. In 2004 Virgin hired Class 67s from EWS and Mark 2 Carriages from Riviera Trains to operate Summer Saturday services to Paignton.[22]

A standby set of Mark 2 carriages was leased from Riviera Trains from September 2004.[23] It was usually used between Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly with an EWS Class 90 although it did run to Newcastle with a Class 57/3 in January 2007.

High Speed Trains were hired from Midland Mainline on a number of occasions to operate services from Edinburgh Waverley to Plymouth when Voyagers were unavailable.

Original fleet[edit]

 Class   Image   Type   Built   Withdrawn   Notes 
Class 43 High Speed Train Hornby HST 43087-02.jpg diesel locomotive 1976–1982 2003 Operated with Mark 3 Coaches. Most stored, some transferred to Midland Mainline and Network Rail. Remainder later reinstated and now operated by CrossCountry, East Coast, East Midlands Trains, First Great Western and Grand Central.
Class 47 47817 The Institution of Mechanical Engineers at Exeter St Davids.jpg diesel locomotive 1962–1968 2002 Operated with Mark 2 Coaches. Some of these were rebuilt as Class 57/3 locomotives.
Class 86 86229 'Lions Club International' at Birmingham New Street.jpg electric locomotive 1965–1966 2002 Operated with Mark 2 Coaches.
Class 158 Express Sprinter 158751 at Westbury.JPG diesel multiple unit 1989–1992 2001 Transferred to First Great Western
Mark 2 Carriage BR Mk.IIf TSO No.5934 (6731878621).jpg Passenger Rolling stock 1964–1975 2002 Operated with Class 47 and 86 locomotives
Mark 3 Carriage Mark3gner.jpg Passenger Rolling stock 1975–1982 2003 Operated with Class 43

Final fleet[edit]

 Class   Image   Type   Built   Number 
Class 220 Voyager Virgin Voyager 220003 2005-06-09 05.jpg Diesel-Electric Multiple Unit 2000-2001 34
Class 221 Super Voyager Class 221 Virgin Voyager approaching Bristol Parkway westbound 2006-05-03 02.jpg Diesel-Electric Multiple Unit 2001-2002 44

Demise[edit]

In September 2006 the Department for Transport announced the shortlist for the New CrossCountry franchise with Virgin Rail Group included.[24] On 10 July 2007 the Department for Transport awarded the new CrossCountry franchise to Arriva with the services operated by Virgin CrossCountry transferring to CrossCountry on 11 November 2007.[25]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 3007937 CrossCountry Trains Limited
  2. ^ Companies House extract company no 3007940 West Coast Trains Limited
  3. ^ Virgin to run CrossCountry trains The Independent 14 November 1996
  4. ^ Virgin passengers get better deal BBC News 7 October 1998
  5. ^ Virgin Rail Group Interim Agreement House of Commons Select Committee on Transport
  6. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 494 18 August 2004 Page 6
  7. ^ The Railway Magazine Issue 1242 October 2004 Page 4
  8. ^ 1999 - 2000 Back over the S&C 1s76.com
  9. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 462 28 May 2003 Page 53
  10. ^ Simon Montague (19 November 2002). "Virgin's catalogue of misfortune". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-11. 
  11. ^ Virgin forced to replace new trains with old The Telegraph 1 December 2002
  12. ^ Page 8 Virgin CrossCountry Fact File
  13. ^ Informed Sources January 2003 Alycidon
  14. ^ a b c d e VT3 timetable 2003
  15. ^ VT2 timetable 2005
  16. ^ From Dream to Reality The Locomotive & Carriage Institution 5 November 2002
  17. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 447 30 October 2002 Page 11
  18. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 425 26 December 2001 Page 36
  19. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 425 26 December 2001 Page 10
  20. ^ Privatisation 1993 - 2005 125 Group
  21. ^ The High Speed Train Taunton Trains
  22. ^ History Riviera Trains
  23. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 496 15 September 2004 Page 7
  24. ^ New Cross Country Franchise Specification Issued Virgin Trains Press Release 31 October 2006
  25. ^ Department for Transport announces winner of New Cross Country franchise Department for Transport Press Release 10 July 2007

External links[edit]

Media related to Virgin CrossCountry at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
InterCity
As part of British Rail
Operator of InterCity CrossCountry franchise
1997 - 2007
Succeeded by
CrossCountry