Virgin Trains cross-border passengers up 7%

Virgin Trains said it has seen a surge in cross-border rail travel after investing in 42 new services connecting Edinburgh to Newcastle and London.

It said more than 5,000 additional Virgin Trains passengers are crossing the border every week on the east coast route since a major timetable change in May.

Between May and September, the number of passengers crossing the border in each direction grew by 7% compared to the same period last year, Virgin Trains said.

The news coincides with the start of a £140 million investment programme which has seen refurbishment of fleet interiors, the launch of a new menu designed by chef James Martin and an overhaul of first class lounges, including the lounge at Edinburgh Waverley.

Virgin Trains’ new free onboard entertainment streaming system, BEAM, was introduced earlier this year and Wi-FI was made free for First and Standard Class customers.

Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Transport, said: “Cross border rail services are an undoubted success and demand continues to grow.

“The Scottish Government welcomed Virgin’s journey time and frequency improvements in the new franchise including the increase in services.

“Equally welcome is the connectivity between Scotland’s capital city, northern England, and London which will support businesses and the growing leisure markets along the East Coast.

“We look forward to the further planned improvements in quality and journey times, which will improve rail’s attractiveness in this market.”

Ross Smith, Director of Policy at the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “One of our members’ top priorities is for a connected North East, giving them easy access to other major markets and enabling more people to come to our great region, either to visit or to do business.

“It’s fantastic to see that these changes have paid dividends, demonstrating the value of extra services for the region.”

Virgin Trains said the timetable overhaul in May was the first major step in transforming east coast services between Edinburgh and London.

In December, Virgin Trains will introduce a further three services on Sunday and a late-night service to Newcastle on Friday evenings.

In 2018, roll out will begin of the state-of-the-art Azuma train fleet.

David Horne, Virgin Trains’ managing director for the east coast route, said: “We’re delighted to see the positive response from customers to the improvements we’ve made to Anglo-Scottish services.

“We now offer more trains connecting Edinburgh to Newcastle and London and have invested heavily in improving the quality of these services.”