Virgin Trains operator celebrates 20 years on the tracks

This month sees Virgin Trains celebrate 20 years on the track.

Thursday, 23rd March 2017, 11:47 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:41 am
Virgin Trains caters for hundreds of Lancashire passengers every day

March 9 2017 marked the 20th anniversary of the iconic train brand.

Since its maiden voyage in 1997 when the Spice Girls were number one, the trains have travelled more than 334,500,000 miles, an 
average of 17 million miles per year

To celebrate, its entertainment portal BEAM will host five classic films from 1997 for a limited time, including Men in Black and The Full Monty.

Richard Branson with Virgin staff 20 years ago

Phil Whittingham, MD for Virgin Trains West Coast, said: “Here at Virgin Trains we’re proud to have been at the forefront of innovating British train travel for the last 20 years.

“Since taking over the franchise, we’ve transformed the West Coast and made it one of the most popular lines in Europe.

“We have constantly and consistently challenged the status quo, and sought to lead the way in the rail industry by introducing new services and initiatives that benefit passengers.”

Over 20 years Virgin Trains has revolutionised UK train travel with the introduction of 125mph trains and increased frequency along the route.

Richard Branson with Virgin staff 20 years ago

On the West Coast main line, which passes through Preston and Lancaster, passenger journeys have grown to 35 million a year.

Hungry passengers have been served more than five million English breakfasts whilst travelling a combined total of nearly 335 million miles, three and a half times the distance to the sun.

The maiden voyage in 1997 was unveiled by Sir Richard Branson at London Euston, the same week that Spice Girls were number one in the charts and Jerry Maguire was number one at the box office.

The first ever Virgin Train was named ‘Mission: Impossible’, after suggestions that the job could not be done, and since then the fleet has grown to 76 trains serving 49 stations.

Key Moments for Virgin include:

2004 – First timetabled 125mph Pendolino models (tilting trains) introduced to the UK on the West Coast

2008 – High Frequency timetable introduced – increased services and reduced journey times

2012 – New 11-car Pendolinos introduced to accommodate growing passenger numbers

2013 – Hourly services introduced between London and Scotland.

On the East Coast route, £140m is being invested to create a more personalised travel experience.

Virgin has already invested £21m to completely revamp its existing fleet and customers can now benefit from 42 additional services (22,000 extra seats) per week between Edinburgh and London.

2018 will see the introduction of completely new Azuma trains being built in the UK by Hitachi. The West Coast route has a proud record of challenging the status quo – from introducing tilting Pendolino trains, to a pioneering automated delay repay scheme and becoming the first franchised rail operator to offer m-Tickets for all ticket types.

In Preston in 2016, Virgin Trains created a Bike Hub with 200 spaces and a specialist bike shop (ran by a local SME, Leisure Lakes Bikes) to support the growing cycling community in Preston

The train operator has been working with Mrs Kirkham’s, located around 10 miles from Preston station, for 18 months for products on its First Class Menu

With the help of Lancashire customers the team at Preston raised £5,000 to sponsor their own Guide Dog called Diesel

And last year, Virgin Trains introduced free Wi-Fi at the station for customers.