Virgin Rail Group
|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
|West Coast Main Line|
|Owner||Virgin Group (51%)
Virgin Rail Group was formed by the Virgin Group to bid for rail franchises in the United Kingdom during the privatisation of British Rail. Virgin bid for a number of franchises, including Gatwick Express, InterCity CrossCountry and InterCity West Coast. It was successful in winning the latter two, and Virgin CrossCountry and Virgin West Coast began operations in January and March 1997 respectively. Both franchises were scheduled to run for 15 years.
In October 1998 Virgin Group sold 49% of the shares in Virgin Rail Group to Stagecoach. In March 2000 Virgin was shortlisted to bid for the InterCity East Coast franchise. In January 2002 the Strategic Rail Authority scrapped the refranchising process and awarded a two-year extension to GNER.
In the wake of the collapse of Railtrack and the inability of Network Rail to deliver on the 140 mph (225 km/h) West Coast Main Line upgrade, both the Virgin CrossCountry and Virgin West Coast franchises were suspended in favour of management contracts in July 2002. While the terms of the West Coast franchise were renegotiated, agreement could not be reached on CrossCountry and it was retendered in 2007.
Virgin was shortlisted to bid for the InterCity East Coast franchise in 2004, but was not successful, as the franchise bid was won by Sea Containers, parent company of then train operator Great North Eastern Railway. Virgin was shortlisted for the New CrossCountry franchise by the Department for Transport in September 2006, but was not successful with the Virgin CrossCountry franchise transferring to Arriva in November 2007.
After Sea Containers was stripped of the East Coast franchise due to poor financial management, Virgin was again shortlisted for the InterCity East Coast franchise in February 2007, but was not successful, as the franchise bid was won by National Express. This bid had a 10% shareholding for the incumbent, Sea Containers.
In August 2012 the Department for Transport awarded FirstGroup the new franchise. Virgin felt that the methodology used to award the franchise was flawed, and Richard Branson said it was unlikely Virgin would bid for any future franchises. When the Department for Transport did not respond to Virgin's concerns, it launched proceedings for a judicial review. While preparing its case for the judicial review, the government discovered significant technical flaws in the way the franchise process had been conducted, and cancelled the competition, vindicating Virgin's protests. In December 2012 Virgin was awarded a 23-month management contract to run the franchise until November 2014.
in May 2013 a controversy regarding new uniforms claims that the new blouses were too revealing and potentially exposed dark bras to the public. Virgin Rail Group responded to this by offering a voucher worth £20 to allow employees to purchase a top to wear underneath the new blouses.
In March 2015, Virgin Trains East Coast commenced operating the InterCity East Coast franchise. However instead of being run by Virgin Rail Group, this is run by Inter City Railways which is majority owned by Stagecoach, with Virgin Group only holding a 10% shareholding.
In November 2016, the government announced that the InterCity West Coast franchise would be replaced by a new franchise named the West Coast Partnership, which will include operating High Speed 2 (HS2). Services are planned to begin on the first phase of HS2 in 2026. The Department for Transport requires that the new operator have experience in operating high speed trains (250mph) and infrastructure. To satisfy this requirement, Stagecoach (50%) and Virgin (20%) will bid in a joint venture with SNCF (30%).
- Companies House extract company no 03282548 Virgin Rail Group Limited
- "National Express wins Gatwick rail franchise" The Independent 4 April 1996
- "Virgin to run CrossCountry trains" The Independent 14 November 1996
- "Virgin pledges tilt trains for West Coast" The Independent 31 January 1997
- "Riding the Big Ticket" Railway Digest August 1998 page 18
- "Virgin passengers get 'better deal'" BBC News 7 October 1998
- "Six Companies Shortlisted for First Franchise Replacement Round" Shadow Strategic Rail Authority 14 March 2000
- "Virgin's 200 mph East Coast Vision" BBC News 6 March 2000
- "High-speed GNER trains scrapped" BBC News 16 January 2002
- Virgin Rail Group Interim Agreement House of Commons Select Committee on Transport
- "CrossCountry could be carved up as SRA rejects Virgin bid". Rail Magazine issue 494 18 August 2004 page 6
- "CrossCountry network could be axed, fears Virgin" The Railway Magazine issue 1242 October 2004 page 4
- "GNER wins second franchise term" Railway Gazette International 1 May 2005
- "New Cross Country Franchise Specification Issued" Virgin Trains 31 October 2006
- "Department for Transport announces winner of New Cross Country franchise" Department for Transport 10 July 2007
- "Four in East Coast rail shortlist" BBC News 20 February 2007
- "Virgin Rail Group welcomes decision on longer Pendolino trains" Virgin Trains 31 July 2008
- "Shortlisted Bidders for Greater Anglia and InterCity West Coast Franchises" Department for Transport 24 March 2011
- "New operator for West Coast passengers" Department for Transport 15 August 2012
- "Richard Branson attacks Government 'insanity' after Virgin loses West Coast contract" The Daily Telegraph 15 August 2012
- "Virgin Trains loses West Coast Mainline franchise" BBC News 15 August 2012
- "Virgin Trains takes West Coast Main Line court action" BBC News 28 August 2012
- "West Coast Main Line franchise competition cancelled" Department for Transport 3 October 2012
- Two-year extension for Virgin Rail after West Coast chaos The Daily Telegraph 5 December 2012
- "Bra wars: Virgin Trains in row over see-through uniforms". AOL Travel UK. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
- More seats, more services and new trains for East Coast passengers Department for Transport 27 November 2014
- Stagecoach and Virgin win East Coast mainline rail franchise BBC News 27 November 2014
- New West Coast rail franchise to run HS2 services BBC News 4 November 2016
- Wanted: Superfast mover to partner Virgin and Stagecoach for HS2 The Times 4 March 2017
- RENFE poised to join Virgin's HS2 franchise bid Railway Gazette International 12 March 2017
- Stagecoach and Virgin to join forces with SNCF for West Coast Partnership Bid Stagecoach 25 July 2017
- Stagecoach and SNCF lead Virgin-branded bid for HS2 operations Railway Gazette International 25 July 2017