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Rise in market share

Virgin on track after passenger surge

Virgin Trains

Fast growth: Virgin hopes to continue taking market share when new trains are introduced

Virgin Trains says it is on track to achieve its target of carrying half of all Edinburgh-London travellers after revealing that more are switching from plane to train.

In June, 180,000 passengers travelled on Virgin Trains’ services between Edinburgh and London and the east coast and Glasgow and London on the west coast, against 152,000 a year earlier, an 18% rise.

The company says this gave it a 33% share of the market on the UK’s busiest domestic air route, passing the record set in 2014.

Edinburgh and London trains enjoyed a 37% market share, up two percentage points on its previous peak three years ago. Market share between Glasgow and London was 27%.

It said the number travelling on the west coast route over the last decade has saved enough CO2 to take 145,000 cars off the road for a year.

David Horne, Virgin Trains’ east coast managing director, said: “When we took over the east coast route, we set out ambitious plans to gain a 50% market share between Edinburgh and London by 2023.

“These figures show an encouraging start to that journey and confirm an historic shift in travel patterns towards train.”

Figures show a rise in overall air/rail travel between Glasgow/ Edinburgh and London, up from 6m last year to 6.7 million.

Vtec (Virgin Trains East Coast), a partnership with Stagecoach said last December that it had carried more than a million travellers for the first time and attributed the growth to discounted fares, more services and improved trains.

Since taking on the East Coast Rail franchise in May 2015 Virgin Trains has spent £140m in improving its service, overhauling its trains and adding 45 departures between London and Edinburgh every week to bring the service up to a rate of one every half an hour.

It is targeting annual passenger traffic of 1.5m over seven years which it believes it can achieve with the help of a new fleet of trains (pictured above) from 2018.

The Japanese-designed Hitachi Azuma trains will have more seats and cut journey times by 30 minutes to four hours by 2020.

Overtaking the airlines will be a huge challenge and would require reversing a 40 year trend.


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