Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Tony Collins video statement to Virgin staff

That is all.

Exciting Eye Competition: Spot the Greening!

Time for an exciting new Eye competition!

Despite there having been two major transport announcements in the last 24 hours (fares increases and the winner of the West Coast franchise) the Secretary of State for Transport has gone missing!

Look at the picture below.

Using your skill and judgement can you help the DfT find Justine Greening?

Clue: She's not there.

Perhaps in the reshuffle iDave can give us a full time Secretary of State for Transport?

West Coast incumbent salutes the DfT!

First Group CEO letter to ICWC stakeholders

This from Tim O'Toole...

I’m delighted to tell you that FirstGroup has been chosen by the Government to operate the InterCity West Coast rail franchise.  FirstGroup is the largest rail operator in the UK and has vast experience of operating a range of rail services.

We will begin operating services on 9 December and will run the franchise until 31 March 2026. The longer franchise period means we can invest £350m over the first five years in enhancing the service offered to customers, to realise the huge potential of the West Coast route - including 66 additional brand new vehicles, on top of the 106 extra vehicles currently being delivered this year.

Our plans for the service reflect its status as the UK's premier railway and through investment and innovation we are committed to delivering high quality customer services, with visible employees to assist and reassure, and maintaining and enhancing on-train catering.

We also want to offer value for money, and we will cut Standard Anytime fares by 15% on average.  We will introduce an improved compensation scheme for passengers who experience disruption to their journey from day one.

By 2016 we will deliver the following enhancements:

Timetable and trains
  • Transforming the on-board environment with a major refurbishment of Pendolino and Voyager interiors with new seats throughout and improved luggage space
  • Introducing 11 new 125mph six-car electric trains for Birmingham – Scotland services which will create 12,000 additional seats per day.  This is on top of the 28,000 new seats that will be provided by the additional 106 Pendolino carriages that are coming into service in time for the start of the new franchise.  This means there will be 40,000 extra seats by 2016, compared with 2011
  • Improved journey time of 15 minutes for trains between London and Glasgow
  • Introducing new direct services from London to Blackpool, Telford, Shrewsbury and Bolton providing a new direct link to the capital for more than 500,000 people
  • Doubling frequency of London to Preston services, and more capacity to Chester and North Wales
  • Improving connectivity with more stops at Nuneaton and Milton Keynes
  • Reliability and punctuality improvements to improve Public Performance Measure (PPM) to over 90% (from current level of 85.9%) through targeted investment and a new Alliance with Network Rail

Fares and ticketing
  • Reducing Standard Anytime fares by 15% on average
  • Installation of automatic ticket gates installation at 21 stations, including the major terminals of London Euston, Manchester Piccadilly, Liverpool Lime St and Glasgow Central
  • Investment in greater yield management capability to help grow demand with increased marketing and introduction of new customer loyalty programme

Enhanced customer offering and innovation
  • Smart ticketing introduced across the network
  • Free upgraded high speed Wi-Fi, and enhanced mobile phone coverage following train refurbishment
  • Enhanced catering service offered, with increased at seat catering for customers
  • Improved information systems including new customer mobile apps
  • Station investment includes improving accessibility, security and passenger information
  • Commitment to high quality service including a greater emphasis on customer facing staff on trains and at stations

We have also committed to improve customer satisfaction ratings, and to provide clear and comprehensive information about our performance on the franchise.

We understand the importance of the West Coast Main Line route, not only to the communities it serves, but because it links many of the major cities in the UK, supporting the economic development of the nation.  With the major infrastructure upgrade on the West Coast Main Line completed, and additional train capacity being provided this year, we believe there is huge potential to grow demand and improve service on this franchise. Our plans will encourage more people along the route to travel by rail rather than drive or fly, reducing environmental impacts.

The franchise will form a key part of our Rail division, headed by our MD UK Rail, Rail Vernon Barker OBE, who successfully led First TransPennine Express for many years.  As we prepare to launch our service at the end of the year, we will seek further opportunities to share our plans with you in more detail. If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact Richard Parry, our designate Managing Director for the new franchise.

We are privileged to be given the opportunity to serve the customers, cities, businesses and communities on this premier route, and look forward to working with you.  

Kind regards


Tim O'Toole
Chief Executive

Virgin statement on IC West Coast franchise

This from Virgin...

Statement: from Sir Richard Branson, Founder Virgin Group

Following the DFT's decision to award the West Coast Mainline franchise to FirstGroup, Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group,  said:

“The Government decision to award the West Coast Main Line Franchise to FirstGroup is extremely disappointing for Virgin, and for our staff that have worked so hard to transform this railway over the last 15 years.  We submitted a strong and deliverable bid based on improving customers’ experience, increased investment and sustained innovation. To have bid more would have involved dramatic cuts to customer quality and considerable fare rises which we were unwilling to entertain.

“We also did not want to risk letting everybody down with almost certain bankruptcy at some time during the franchise as happened to GNER and National Express who overbid on the East Coast mainline. Sadly the Government has chosen to take that risk with First Group and we only hope they will continue to drive dramatic improvements on this line for years to come without letting everybody down.

“We won the franchise in 1997 with an agenda to change radically the way people viewed and used the train. At the time the track was run-down, staff demoralised, the service riddled with delays and reliant on heavy subsidies. We set hugely challenging targets to dramatically speed up journey times with modern tilting trains, increase the frequency of the service, improve the on-board experience; as well as double passenger numbers and return the line to profit.

“We were told it was "Mission Impossible" and our plans were laughed at by critics. However 15 years later, despite continued problems with the track, we have achieved our targets. Passenger numbers have more than doubled to over 30 million, the fastest growth in the UK and world leading. We have the highest customer satisfaction of any long distance franchise operator and dominate the air/rail market between London and Manchester. It has been a remarkable achievement by an outstanding team who have successfully delivered on our promises.

“I am immensely proud of our staff for turning the West Coast line from a heavily loss-making operation into one that will return the taxpayer billions in the years to come.  Last year we paid a net premium of £160 million to the taxpayer and have created a franchise worth more than £6 billion which is hugely valuable to the country.

“These achievements have counted for little – as this is the fourth time that we have been out-bid in a rail tender. On the past three occasions, the winning operator has come nowhere close to delivering their promised plans and revenue, and has let the public and country down dramatically. In the case of the East Coast Main line, both winners – GNER and National Express - over promised in order to win the franchise and spectacularly ran into financial difficulties in trying to deliver their plans.  The East Coast is still in Government ownership and its service is outdated and underinvested, costing passengers and the country dearly as a result.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When will the Department for Transport learn?

Interestingly before Virgin took over the West Coast there were more passengers using the East Coast than the West Coast. Now there are 12 million fewer.

“Under our stewardship, the West Coast Mainline has been transformed from a public liability into a valuable asset for the UK, worth many billions of pounds.  The service is a British success story and one to put up against rail companies around the world. It is a great shame that such a strong track record has been discounted in the evaluation process for one of the UK’s most important infrastructure assets. The country's passengers, taxpayers and the West Coast employees deserve better.

“Based on the current flawed system, it is extremely unlikely that we would bid again for a franchise.  The process is too costly and uncertain, with our latest bid costing £14 million. We have made realistic offers for the East Coast twice before which were rejected by the Department for Transport for completely unrealistic ones and therefore will have to think hard before embarking on another bid.

“Our amazing staff have been the driving force behind the West Coast Main Line’s transformation and I am sure that for the last months of the contract they will all continue to run the high quality service that has helped win us many awards and attract millions more customers to rail.”

DfT statement on IC West Coast franchise

This from the DfT...

Rail passengers from London to Scotland will benefit from a package of improvements including more trains and more seats, as Rail Minister Theresa Villiers unveiled First West Coast Limited as the new operator for the ‘InterCity West Coast’ franchise.

As part of the deal First West Coast Limited will introduce 11 new six-car electric trains which will enable more seats to be provided across the franchise, including greater capacity on the Birmingham to Scotland route. New services are planned from Blackpool, Telford, Shrewsbury and Bolton to London. First West Coast Limited has also committed to cut the cost of its ‘Standard Anytime’ fares by an average of 15% within the first two years.

The franchise stretches from London to Glasgow, connecting many of the UK’s major cities including Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Edinburgh, Lancaster and Chester. The franchise deal is worth £5.5 billion (net present value) over the lifetime of the contract.
Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said:

“This new franchise will deliver big improvements for passengers, with more seats and plans for more services. Targets to meet on passenger satisfaction will be introduced for the first time in an InterCity rail franchise and passengers will also benefit from smart ticketing and from investment in stations.

“The West Coast is the first of the new longer franchises to be let by the Coalition which has helped us secure real benefits for passengers by encouraging First West Coast Limited to invest in the future of the service.”

Benefits the new franchise will offer passengers include:
  • More Seats: The new 11 six-car electric trains will deliver circa 12,000 extra seats a day, from December 2016 with the cascade of existing rolling stock to bolster capacity on West Coast routes. This is in addition to the 106 extra ‘Pendolino’ carriages which are currently being introduced into operation on to the franchise, which will deliver over 28,000 extra daily seats.
  • More Services: Initially First West Coast Limited will operate the timetable they will inherit from the current franchise but are seeking to introduce a number of new services including a London Euston to Blackpool service from 2013 and from 2016 services from London to Telford Central, Shrewsbury and Bolton.
  • Improved Services: Journey time improvements between London and Glasgow are planned, as well as additional services from London to Preston.
  • Fares: First West Coast Limited is changing its Standard Anytime fares and reducing them by an average of 15% over the first two years of the franchise.
  • Improved Stations: First West Coast Limited is taking over responsibility for maintenance at 17 of their stations and will spend at least £22m on a station investment programme.
  • Smart ticketing technology: First West Coast Limited will introduce ITSO based smart ticketing. This will offer speed and convenience as well as new ticket types more tailored to individual needs.
Notes to editors
  1. Bids were received from;
    • Abellio InterCity West Coast Limited – NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen),
    • First West Coast Limited – FirstGroup plc,
    • Keolis / SNCF West Coast Limited – Keolis SA and SNCF,
    • Virgin Trains Limited – Virgin Group Holdings Limited.
  2. Virgin Trains has operated the franchise since 1997 and the existing contract expires on 9 December 2012. The new franchise will begin operation on Sunday 9 December 2012. The franchise will operate for a core term of 13 years and 4 months, with an option to be extended to operate for up to 15 years.
  3. The proposed Train Service Specification for new Inter City West Coast represents a relaxation from the rigid timetable specification of the past, while retaining obligations that protect the key elements of service, such as principal first and last trains and minimum numbers of station stops per week and per day. This marks a significant shift from the highly detailed specification which featured in previous franchise specifications.
  4. To support its bid, First West Coast Limited has provided £10m of Shareholder Capital, a £45m Performance bond agreement and a subordinated loan of £190m. This is in addition to the requirement to provide a Season Ticket bond of circa £5m and a £15m Parent Company Guarantee to ensure the new Station Facilities maintenance obligations are met.
  5. This longer franchise length encouraged investment in assets such as stations by extending the period over which commercially attractive schemes can pay back.
  6. Anytime fares allow the use of any train, including at weekday peak times. Anytime tickets are not the only ones available to walk-on passengers. Off-peak fares are also available on the day and – as their name implies – are generally valid on all but peak services.
  7. The new services are subject to obtaining the necessary permissions and access rights from the Office of Rail Regulation.
  8. ITSO is a government-backed common technical standard for smart travel which means that transport operators throughout Britain can link up so passengers only have to use one secure payment ‘smart’ card no matter what bus, train or route they are using.