Virgin CrossCountry - A
Virgin CrossCountry - A
Virgin CrossCountry was a train operating company in the United Kingdom operating the InterCity CrossCountry passenger franchise from January 1997 until November 2007. Virgin CrossCountry operated some of the longest direct rail services in the United Kingdom but most avoided Greater London after 2003. All services called or terminated at Birmingham New Street.
The company traded under the Virgin Trains brand, along with the InterCity West Coast franchise, however the two franchises were operated by separate legal entities.
Virgin CrossCountry History
Virgin Rail Group was awarded the InterCity CrossCountry franchise in November 1996, with operations commencing on 5 January 1997. Services were operated by a wholly owned subsidiary, CrossCountry Trains Limited.
In October 1998, Virgin Group sold 49% of the shares in Virgin Rail Group to Stagecoach.
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.
In September 2006 the Department for Transport announced the shortlist for the New CrossCountry franchise with Virgin Rail Group included. On 10 July 2007 the Department for Transport awarded the new CrossCountry franchise to Arriva with the services operated by Virgin CrossCountry transferring to CrossCountry on 11 November 2007.
Virgin CrossCountry Services
In May 1998 Virgin introduced new services from Portsmouth Harbour to Liverpool Lime Street and Blackpool North. The Summer Saturday service to Ramsgate ran for the last time in September 1999. The Summer Saturday services to Weymouth ran for the last time in September 2002.
Virgin CrossCountry Operation Princess
In September 2002 Virgin Trains launched Operation Princess. This involved introducing a new clockface timetable with shorter trains running more frequently. However the new fleet suffered from a number of technical faults which coupled with infrastructure and capacity issues led to many problems.
Between September 2002 and January 2003 punctuality fell to 54.1%, it was therefore agreed with the Strategic Rail Authority that certain services would be cut to improve reliability and robustness on the core network.
When Operation Princess was launched in September 2002, Virgin CrossCountry served these destinations:
Withdrawn summer 2003
Blackpool North withdrawn summer 2003
Services west of Bournemouth withdrawn summer 2003
Portsmouth and London Paddington withdrawn summer 2003, reduced frequency to Brighton, all Liverpool Lime Street withdrawn winter 2003
Services west of Cardiff withdrawn summer 2003
Virgin CrossCountry Project Omega
Project Omega was a project which would have seen a series of improvements following the West Coast modernisation. This included Virgin CrossCountry running services from London Kings Cross to Teesside via Nottingham and York and another service from Portsmouth Harbour to Nottingham via Feltham for Heathrow.
These services would have been run by the Class 220. The project also involved extending Virgin's West Coast and CrossCountry franchises by 5 years (both originally planned to end in 2012, so would have been 2017) as well as adding a fifth car to 38 Voyagers.
By the time Virgin Trains lost the CrossCountry franchise bid to Arriva in 2007 the network consisted of only the following routes:
Virgin CrossCountry Overview
Virgin CrossCountry Franchise(s): InterCity CrossCountry
6 January 1997 – 10 November 2007
Virgin CrossCountry Main Route(s): Southern England/London Paddington and South West England/South East Wales – Midlands – Northern England and Scotland
Virgin CrossCountry Fleet Size: 34 Voyager and 44 Super Voyager sets
Virgin CrossCountry Parent Company: Virgin Group (51%)
Virgin CrossCountry Reporting Mark: VXC