Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Virgin's view of Barbielino and Eastern Promise

Clearly confusion reigns over today's exciting announcement from Directly Operated Railways about plans to operate 'Barbielinos' on the ECML.

Virgin were clearly unsighted on DOR's plans as this statement, released yesterday afternoon, by Virgin Rail Group reveals

"We have no knowledge of any plans to use new Pendolinos on East Coast and have not been asked for any advice. The new Pendolinos were ordered for the West Coast based upon a robust business case and are due to start arriving in the UK later this year.

“As has already been reported, we have made a proposal to the DfT to seek an extension to our West Coast Franchise and one of the many benefits would be to assist the DfT with the tricky integration of new vehicles and offering options to put the new 11-car trains into revenue earning service earlier than previously envisaged, to provide maximum capacity before and during the Olympic Games in 2012.

“We cannot go into too much detail as this is still a matter between us and the DfT, but we can confirm broadly that our plans are to put the first new Class 390 on Scotland - Birmingham services in 2011, of which many are now full and standing (nearly half of all trains on Fridays and Sundays). Then we would extend the trains to London, restoring some direct Milton Keynes - Scotland links, and free-up a Super Voyager to start a new service linking Manchester with Heathrow ( Hayes ). Another set would also enable hourly London - Glasgow services throughout the day by the end of 2011.

“Furthermore, we have developed a new business case that pays for the placing of an order for another 42 vehicles, at no additional cost to Government. This would bring the complete Pendolino fleet of 56 trains up to 11-car with 2 additional standard class coaches per set.

“We are sure the DfT will not dismiss out of hand our revenue earning proposals over an experiment on the East Coast and we are just waiting to discuss our proposals in more detail.

"Given the record rates of growth we seeing on our West Coast services (three times higher than the East Coast) we really need to get the trains and cars into service as soon as possible to handle the growing passenger numbers without worsening overcrowding."

Eye understands that the DfT press office were also unaware of the DOR release until it popped into their inboxes this morning.

Not bad considering that DOR is part of the Department for Transport.

Three Railway Eye cheers for joined up government!

UPDATE: This from Our Man at 222 Marylebone Road...

Virgin say: “We are sure the DfT will not dismiss out of hand our revenue earning proposals over an experiment on the East Coast and we are just waiting to discuss our proposals in more detail."

Virgin mean: 'We put in our proposals yonks ago and from the deafening silence it's pretty clear that DfT Rail is continuing its vendetta against us despite the change of government.'

UPDATE: This from Jumbo...

Is there any circumstance in which Virgin could resist telling us how good they are?

With investment of over £10 billion on the West Coast, and a massive increase in the train service, it is no wonder that growth is three times higher than on the East Coast.

Still with all their exciting plans, no doubt the DfT can expect Virgin to offer lots of lovely lolly in premium payments in the near future.

But is it too soon to tell Sir Roy McNulty?

UPDATE: Ithuriel responds to Jumbo...

As any fule kno, DfT Rail felt that it had been taken to the cleaners by those nasty capitalists at Virgin when the revised West Coast franchise deal was struck.

Virgin even sweet-talked the gullible civil servants into early eligibility for revenue support under cap and collar (Like those public spirited entrepreneurs at First Group?. Ed).

But despite Virgin's worst efforts, ridership and revenue is booming, so that it is all cap and no collar on the West coast and the public purse is taking 80% of earnings over the revenue profile in the revised franchise agreement.

Meanwhile East Coast is still relying on the collar.

Clearly DfT Rail believes that no commercial good deed should go unpunished