Virgin Rail Group
Virgin Rail Group was formed by the Virgin Group to bid for rail franchises in the United Kingdom during the privatisation of British Rail. Virgin bid for a number of franchises, including Gatwick Express, InterCity CrossCountry and InterCity West Coast. It was successful in winning the latter two, and Virgin CrossCountry and Virgin West Coast began operations in January and March 1997 respectively. Both franchises were scheduled to run for 15 years.
In October 1998 Virgin Group sold 49% of the shares in Virgin Rail Group to Stagecoach. In March 2000 Virgin was shortlisted to bid for the InterCity East Coast franchise. In January 2002 the Strategic Rail Authority scrapped the refranchising process and awarded a two-year extension to GNER.
In the wake of the collapse of Railtrack and the inability of Network Rail to deliver on the 140 mph West Coast Main Line upgrade, both the Virgin CrossCountry and Virgin West Coast franchises were suspended in favour of management contracts in July 2002. While the terms of the West Coast franchise were renegotiated, agreement could not be reached on CrossCountry and it was retendered in 2007.
Virgin was shortlisted to bid for the InterCity East Coast franchise in 2004. Virgin was shortlisted for the New CrossCountry franchise by the Department for Transport in September 2006, but was not successful with the Virgin CrossCountry franchise transferring to Arriva in November 2007.
Virgin was shortlisted for the InterCity West Coast franchise by the Department for Transport in March 2011. In August 2012 the Department for Transport awarded FirstGroup the new franchise. Virgin felt that the methodology used to award the franchise was flawed, and Richard Branson said it was unlikely Virgin would bid for any future franchises. When the Department for Transport did not respond to Virgin's concerns, it launched proceedings for a judicial review. While preparing its case for the judicial review, the government discovered significant technical flaws in the way the franchise process had been conducted, and cancelled the competition, vindicating Virgin's protests. In December 2012 Virgin was awarded a 23 month management contract to run the franchise until November 2014.
Following the acknowledgment of problems with the franchising process by the government, Richard Branson stated that Virgin would probably again bid for the InterCity East Coast franchise when it is relet in 2013.
- Companies House extract company no 3282548 Virgin Rail Group Limited
- Wolmar, Christian (4 April 1996). "National Express wins Gatwick rail franchise". The Independent (London).
- "Virgin to run CrossCountry trains". The Independent (London). 14 November 1996.
- Harrison, Michael (31 January 1997). "Virgin pledges tilt trains for West Coast". The Independent (London).
- "Riding the Big Ticket" Railway Digest (Australian Rail Historical Society) August 1998 Page 18
- "Virgin passengers get 'better deal'". BBC News. 7 October 1998.
- "Six Companies Shortlisted for First Franchise Replacement Round". Shadow Strategic Rail Authority (Press release). 14 March 2000.
- "Virgin's 200 mph East Coast Vision". BBC News. 6 March 2000.
- "High-speed GNER trains scrapped". BBC News. 16 January 2002.
- Virgin Rail Group Interim Agreement. House of Commons Select Committee on Transport.
- "CrossCountry could be carved up as SRA rejects Virgin bid". Rail (Peterborough). Issue 494. 18 August 2004. p. 6
- "CrossCountry network could be axed, fears Virgin". The Railway Magazine. Issue 1242. October 2004. p. 4
- "GNER wins second franchise term". Railway Gazette. 1 May 2005.
- "New Cross Country Franchise Specification Issued". Virgin Trains (Press release). 31 October 2006.
- "Department for Transport announces winner of New Cross Country franchise". Department for Transport (Press release). 10 July 2007.
- "Four in East Coast rail shortlist". BBC News. 20 February 2007.
- "Virgin Rail Group welcomes decision on longer Pendolino trains". Virgin Trains (Press release). 31 July 2008.
- "Shortlisted Bidders for Greater Anglia and InterCity West Coast Franchises". Department for Transport. 24 March 2011.
- "New operator for West Coast passengers". Department for Transport (Press release). 15 August 2012.
- Trotman, Andrew; Thomas, Nathalie (15 August 2012). "Richard Branson attacks Government 'insanity' after Virgin loses West Coast contract". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- "Virgin Trains loses West Coast Mainline franchise". BBC News. 15 August 2012.
- "Virgin Trains takes West Coast Main Line court action". BBC News. 28 August 2012.
- "West Coast Main Line franchise competition cancelled". Department for Transport (Press release). 3 October 2012.
- Two-year extension for Virgin Rail after West Coast chaos The Telegraph 5 December 2012
- Quinn, James (27 October 2012). "Virgin Trains lining up bid for East Coast rail line". The Daily Telegraph (London).