Monday, 11 October 2010

Brummies revolting after journey time shock

Telegrammed by Sir Joseph Chamberlain
Much unease in the West Midlands over Virgin's current Euston - Birmingham - Wolverhapton service.

A Virgin advert in the Conservative Party Conference brochure claimed an average journey time of just over two hours for the journey between the Capital and the Second City.

Perhaps a tad embarrassing as the usual journey time is actually 81 minutes - a time already considered pisspoor by many of the region's great and good as it is only eight minutes faster than the service was 30 years ago.

Of course Virgin's PR boo-boo did little to reasure the local business community who are already feeling unloved.

The very same week that Virgin was unsuccesfully schmoozing the Tories for a franchise extension the TOC also sent a General Manager to sooth Business Leaders at the influential West Midlands Business Transport Group.

Sadly he declined to give a presentation, and struggled to list even three items on the route that had improved under Virgin's watch. The refusal to engage in meaningful discussion left many seething, with a consensus quickly emerging that the time could better have been spent on the Golf Course!

This apparent disspassion towards the West Midlands seems in marked contrast to Beardie Rail's successful relationship with business travellers in the North West

Indeed, some Virgin-endorsed posters promoting Warrington as a business destination, just 1h40 from Euston, have caused a significant sense-of-humour failure in Wolverhampton. Aggrieved Blackcountry businessfolk were horrified to learn that the journey from Wolverhampton to London (126 miles) actually takes nine minutes longer than the journey from Warrington to London (180 miles)!

Perhaps the final straw was to discover that the fleet-of-foot can change trains at Stafford, and reach Wolverhampton in just 1h32 minutes, saving eight minutes on the direct service.

Perhaps Virgin has relied too long on the reputation Brummies have for being slow on the uptake?

Sadly, they can do so no more.

The powerful West Midlands Business Transport Group, led by Birmingham Chamber's eminance grise Jerry Blackett, has had enough of the nonsense, and is determined to see the Midlands get a fair share of goodies in any future franchise:

"A future franchisee would have an impact on the economic well-being of the Midlands, and we would wish to see a policy of active engagement with business.

"Based on discussions with prospective franchisees, Birmingham Chamber Group will also provide a view to the UK Department for Transport on the alignment of the potential franchisee with the perceived needs of business."

So, with an 'end of term report' due to land on Petrol-head's desk expect the award of the West Coast franchise to become increasingly politically charged.

UPDATE: This from the Shunter...

I had assumed that the McNulty Value for Money review had put paid to Virgin's franchise extension negotiations.

After all DfT were taken to the cleaners twice before by Beardie Rail.

So presumably, for the good of the exchequer, Marsham Street was forbidden to have another go.