FACING UP TO THE CHALLENGE

The East Coast has proved something of a ‘poisoned chalice’ to franchisees in the past, but Stagecoach/Virgin are determined to make a success of it despite open access threats and jitters caused by the recent ‘Brexit’ vote. Nick Pigott meets managing director David Horne to find out how the operator intends to meet the challenges.

EYEBROWS were raised in some sections of the railway world in 2014 when the East Coast franchise was awarded to the operators of the rival West Coast route.

On April 26, a Virgin Trains East Coast set, led by power car No. 43206, climbs to Dalgety summit, just west of Aberdour, with the 07.52 Aberdeen-King’s Cross train. IAN LOTHIAN (INSET): The nameplate of Class 91 No. 91101.
On April 26, a Virgin Trains East Coast set, led by power car No. 43206, climbs to Dalgety summit, just west of Aberdour, with the 07.52 Aberdeen-King’s Cross train. IAN LOTHIAN

‘Surely Britain’s two Anglo-Scottish lines should be in healthy competition with one another’? was the question on many lips as it became clear that the fastest trains on both sides of the country would soon be wearing Virgin Trains branding.

The situation, of course, wasn’t as straightforward as it appeared. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Rail Group owns 51% of the West Coast franchise, with partner Stagecoach, run by Sir Brian Souter, possessing the other 49%. However, on the East Coast, the two consortium members switched roles, with Stagecoach being by far the most dominant partner, with 90%.

Read more in the August issue of The RM

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