We have just heard that we have not been chosen by the Department for Transport to run the West Coast franchise from 9 December, when it will be operated instead by FirstGroup.
This is massively disappointing for all our staff who have delivered major changes to rail in the
last 15 years.
You have been fantastically loyal to us during that time — including during the tough years when
the line needed huge investment and journeys seemingly took forever.
You told us then when we got things wrong, but that feedback brought big improvements and I
am proud that Virgin Trains now has a record customer satisfaction score of 91% — the highest
ever awarded to a long-distance franchise. This has been achieved by a mixture of innovation,
customer service and a determination to prove wrong the critics who said that transforming rail
travel was 'Mission Impossible'.
We said we would revolutionise train journeys and we have. For instance, when we took over in
1997 we ran just one train an hour from Manchester to London — we now run three every hour at
far higher speeds, leaving a strong legacy for the future. Many other towns and cities have also
seen improvements to leisure and business travel as we have more than doubled the number of
customers to some 31million a year.
We hoped to take these improvements to a new level and we submitted a strong and deliverable
bid to run the next franchise.
We proposed many plans: adding new trains and services to new destinations, providing more
onboard catering and improving stations. We also planned to change radically the way you buy
tickets to make it simpler, and to create a fantastic customer loyalty scheme involving the whole
Virgin group, bringing many perks in the UK and overseas. But sadly our customers will not see
the many benefits we would have provided from December.
Until then we will continue to run the high quality service that has helped win many awards and
attract millions more customers to rail.
I am so sorry we won't be able to continue that service for the next 15 years, but I would like to
thank you personally for all your valuable support in the last 15 as we prepare to say goodbye to
Britain's best-known train company, Virgin Trains.
With best wishes
Founder Virgin Group