Sunday, December 16, 2007

Virgin Cross Country franchise demise

On November 11th several operators disappeared from the UK railway network in the latest round of franchise quick shuffle.

One of them was Virgin Cross Country. I have travelled on them quite a few times and they operated some of the busiest routes. They were busy because of Virgin's investment in the franchise with new trains, new tickets / pricing and marketing.

At the start of the franchise commentators said you could not move a Virgin brand on to the railways because the railways are slow, boring and expensive. Things that have never been part of the Virgin brand.

Critics said putting the Virgin brand on track could only ever bring the rest of the Virgin group down.

However, the critics were wrong the Virgin Cross Country brand prospered. It was certainly a hard journey and things could have gone better but it was a success. So with a successful popular operator you would have thought they stood a good chance for keeping the franchise.

Sadly this was not to be and Virgin Cross Country left the scene on November 11, 2007.

I have always felt that brands like Virgin keep the competition honest. Virgin puts quality and value above profit, Virgin stands for customer commitment which cannot be said for a lot of other brands in the transport industry such as First and their terrible franchise First Great Western.

There is a great debate about how franchise holders like FGW are allowed to continue and expand whilst operators like Virgin are always beaten at the post. Like most things it is about politics and money. The government puts cheaper cost above quality of service, they may argue otherwise but in the end they prefer cheap over customer satisfaction.

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