Posts Tagged ‘National Express’

Branson looks at opening bank branches in stations

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Billionaire Sir Richard Branson has confirmed that he will be looking closely at a scheme to open branches of Virgin Money at railway stations between London and Scotland. The entrepreneur is currently attempting to retain the franchise for Virgin Trains on the route up the west coast. Other firms also keen to win the contract include NV Nederlandse Spoorwgan, the Ditch operator, and SNCF of France.

FirstGroup Plc has also said it intends to bid for the franchise. Sir Richard has said that the government contract should not automatically go to the highest bidder. In 2007, Virgin Trains lost out to a higher bid made by National Express on the east coast. However, not two years later the company was forced to give up the lease because it was unable to fulfil financial agreements laid out in the contract.

Sir Richard said that national companies rarely delivered the best customer service, in his opinion. He added that if Virgin is allowed to continue on the west coast, passengers can expect to see some radical changes.

If the contract is not renewed, then Sir Richard has hinted that Virgin could walk away from the railway business in the UK altogether. Although he did not expand on his comment, he said that Virgin had already been approached about developing networks in the US and in Australia.

Virgin has just agreed to buy Northern Rock for £747 million. It is estimated that the deal will expand Virgin Money’s customer base by around one million people.

Richard Branson to bid for west coast train route

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has promised to give passengers superior service on the west coast line between London and Glasgow if Virgin Trains wins the 14-year contact to run the route from the government. He added that it was important that the government did not repeat the mistake it made by awarding the east coast contract to the highest bidder.

In 2007, National Express won the east coast franchise by outbidding Virgin with a £1.4 billion offer. However, not two years later, the firm had to surrender the contract because it could not keep up with its contractual obligations.

Stagecoach group boss, Sir Brian Souter, whose firm has a 49 per cent stake in Virgin Trains, said if the company had won the bid it would have improved services between London and Edinburgh. Other companies in the running for the Glasgow route are French owned Keolis, and Dutch backed Abellio.

Sir Richard has warned the government to look at all criteria, not just how much money it would receive from the contract. He said that history proved that state backed operators often provided a poorer service. The billionaire added that the Virgin bid would be a late Christmas present for the Exchequer at a time when the UK was in need of investment.

Sir Richard said that he was waiting for the government to outline the requirements of the bidding process, but said that if Virgin were to be given the contract, passengers would see some dramatic improvements to services.

Government cancels coach concession

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

The government has been condemned for cancelling a subsidy paid to coach companies so that they can provide cheaper travel to the disabled and the over-60s.  The Coach Concessionary Travel Scheme, which provided half-price travel on long-distance journeys, will no longer be available by the end of this year.

Managing director of the coach division at National Express, Andrew Cleaves, said the decision to no longer provide that subsidy was contrary to Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to protect subsidised travel. He added that the decision was likely to badly affect that elderly and could result in a number of routes disappearing.

Age UK’s charity director, Michelle Mitchell, said the coach concession was vital to many elderly people who used it to remain in contact with family and friends. She added that she had asked to government to reconsider its plans pointing out that if it went ahead more people would be isolated and lonely.

Transport spokesman for the opposition, Maria Eagle, said coach services were essential to those who do not have other transport options. She added that the removal of the concession was likely to reduce the quality of life for pensioners and disabled people who used the services to get around and go on holiday.

The Department for Transport said the coach concession had been useful, but that the government had to deal with the budget deficit. It added that the coach industry could decide to provide its own subsidies and that there would still be concessions on local bus services across the country.