Rail Future comments today on stories in the Press regarding the latest “nightmare” journey on Virgin.

Rail Future wants to support Virgin’s efforts to get more people on the trains but we are disappointed when these efforts are undermined by technical problems and poor customer service.

As reported in the Daily Express and the Daily Mail today, passengers on the 3:05pm Newcastle to Plymouth Cross Country service saw their journey turn into a “16-hour nightmare” when they eventually arrived in Plymouth at 7am the following day.

The worst aspect of the experience, say passengers, was that not one apology was made by Virgin staff throughout the whole journey.

Problems began at Birmingham New Street where they were transferred to replacement (road) coaches because there was flooding on the line. Then one of the coaches suffered a puncture, causing further delay.

Rail Future understands that getting replacement buses and coaches at short notice is very difficult for Virgin and any other operator. But we urge that Virgin must ensure that the standard of service that Virgin aims to apply to its train passengers is in place when these passengers are transferred to buses.

We are glad that one of the passengers who speaks about her experience in the Daily Express will still continue to travel by train.

Virgin have introduced a half price ticket offer throughout February to try to win back passengers that have switched to plane flights or using their car for long-distance journeys following the aftermath of Hatfield. But if passengers are still experiencing nightmare journeys, confidence in the ability of Virgin to deliver a decent service will not be won back.

Furthermore, as reported in the Sunday Mirror on Feb 11th, Virgin’s half price offer is a bit disappointing in some respects.

Rail Future applauds Virgin for coming up with this innovative offer, but is frustrated that:
1) It does not apply on every single West Coast Main Line train (about 95%);
2) It only applies on 65% of Cross Country routes, because other train operators are not “on board” with the offer ;
3) The half-price offer cannot be complimented with Railcard discounts.

For instance, a Saver return from London to Manchester (staying overnight) normally costs