The Edmondson Blog

Bad Day for Virgin

I was very surprised and saddened to see that Virgin has lost its bid to continue running the Cross Country rail franchise to Arriva. Virgin inherited one of the most neglected routes of the old British Railways when it was privatised in 1996. They invested huge amounts of money to replace the creaking rolling stock with shiny new Voyagers. It's been a painful process but there have been some huge improvements.

Now Arriva (who have a pretty chequered history in the rail industry) are taking over and want to reintroduce 30 year old HSTs! This seems like a backward step to me. I've written to the Chief Executive of Arriva, David Martin, to say how disappointed I am they will be reintroducing HSTs rather than investing in new state of the art, clean technology.

Virgin introduced some much needed innovation into the railway industry, including the UKs only tilting trains. They have been given a slap in the face by the Department for Transport. What a way to be rewarded for all their hard work.

1 Responses to “Bad Day for Virgin”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I'm really surprised that anyone feels sympathy with Virgin, a company that has pretty much totally misread both the railway system and, now, what passes for the DfT's brain.

    Virgin's initial high-frequency Cross-Country timetable was impossibly ambitious for the decrepit infrastructure, and the specification for their new trains was appalling (British Rail managed to align seats with windows more than half a century ago, yet this seems impossible for Virgin. And don't even get me started on the reduction in leg-room, and the shrinking seats at a time when we're all getting taller and fatter, and the reduced capacity when more people are travelling leading to massive overcrowding...)

    You talk about Virgin's "huge" investment -- but it was public cash they were spending, not their own! If British Rail had been given anywhere near the amounts of taxpayers' money squandered on these ridiculous companies it seems likely that the railways would now be in a much better condition.

    HSTs are vastly more comfortable to sit in than Voyagers, and are quieter (they don't have enormous diesel engines underneath your feet). And, since they're being re-engined, they're pretty much as economical and energy efficient as Virgin's bloated Voyagers.

    God, this is turning into a rant. Sorry. Although it's not directed solely at Virgin: I hate Arriva, too.

    But one final thought: as a free market liberal, surely you should approve of the franchise going to the cheapest bidder?! Isn't that the inexorable logic of the market...?  

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