"This submission was written before the recent Government decision to disqualify our bid for the West Coast Partnership. However, we believe the recommendations are more pertinent than ever given this news."
UK rail franchise Virgin Trains has announced plans that could overhaul the long-established norms of ticketing, with an airline-style system that would see an end to passengers standing in the aisles. Called a “root-and-branch reform” by the operator, the plans would mean that only those with reservations would be entitled to travel, making ‘turn-up-on-the-day fares’ a thing of the past.
The suggestion has been submitted by Virgin Trains ahead of the publication of the Williams Review in the autumn, an independent initiative created in 2018 that will publish recommendations to reforms that prioritise passengers’ and taxpayers’ interests in the UK rail industry.
Virgin Trains’ ticketing model is seen by the long-distance operator as an opportunity to make it a more attractive proposition to private sector investment, achieving this it says as a result of a more focused customer satisfaction over the long-term rather than managing short-term operating contracts.
The operator’s other recommendations for the UK network are:
- “Longer franchise agreements for short-distance commuter routes which would be integrated with devolved infrastructure management by local governmental bodies”;
- “A more positive development environment for stations”;
- “The creation of a single independent and strategic regulator”.
The latest announcements have come around a week after the UK government’s decision to block future bids from Virgin Trains’ partner Stagecoach, which owns 49% of the red-liveried operator, as it did not meet pension rules. The decision by the Department for Transport could, according to Sir Richard Branson, signal the end of Virgin Trains’ UK brand for good.
Virgin Group’s senior partner has urged the man that will oversee the 2019 report, Keith Williams, to be bold in his decision making to help lead to future improvements across the UK rail network. “This submission was written before the recent government decision to disqualify our bid for the West Coast Partnership. However, we believe the recommendations are more pertinent than ever given this news,” said Patrick McCall.
“Keith Williams has said that franchising cannot continue as it is now, and it is clear we need systemic industry reform which is driven by principles and a whole-system redesign,” adding that all options would inevitably have downsides with some “difficult decisions to be made”.
This may also interest you: