Virgin proposes London-Liverpool open access service

Virgin Trains has applied to run an hourly open access service between London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street, starting in May 2021.

Working with Stagecoach, SNCF and Alstom, Virgin claims the services would be “unique” in that they would be guaranteed to be 10% cheaper than equivalent tickets offered by other operators. There would also be guaranteed reservations, which VT says would eliminate overcrowding.

“These new services will allow us to take the customer experience on the UK’s railways to the next level, and show the rest of the industry how it can be done,” said VT Managing Director Phil Whittingham.

The trains would call at Nuneaton, Lichfield, Tamworth and Liverpool South Parkway. Currently VT operates an hourly service to Liverpool.

VT will use Class 91s and Mk 4s leased from Eversholt Rail. These were used by Virgin Trains East Coast, but are being withdrawn this year as Azumas are introduced on the East Coast Main Line. The trains will be shorter than the current nine-car sets, enabling faster acceleration. However, because they cannot tilt, they will be restricted to 110mph.

Virgin currently operates the Intercity West Coast franchise (which it has run since March 1997) in a 51/49 partnership with Stagecoach. Together with SNCF, the three companies were bidding for the West Coast Partnership deal until Stagecoach was disqualified (RAIL 877)

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  • AndrewJG8918 - 14/06/2019 02:11

    What about a new open access London-Blackpool North service with using Class 91 Mk4 stocks. As the Class 91 Mk4 will soon be replaced by the Class 801 Electric IETs as the Class 800 Bi-mode IETs have entered service and will replace the Class 43 Mk3 HST and Class 91 Mk4 fleets on the East Coast Main Line.

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  • Roger Marsh - 04/07/2019 18:18

    "There would be guaranteed reservations which VT say would eliminate overcrowding" This I've got to see because you will need to have staff on the trains who make sure that people with reservations sit in their allocated seat and remove people from those seats who have occupied them without reservations and it will require vigilance and authority (and sufficient staff) to do that effectively. Also when the train is full to capacity and it stops you will need to count people off and only allow the same number of people to board and you just try and stop any excess numbers boarding ! I can't see it working here but good luck and I've seen it work in France and Spain but it won't work in the UK.

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