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It's the End of the Line for Virgin Trains

August 15, 2012 at 9:42 AM | by | Comment (1)


Forgive the obvious train headline pun.

You wake up and inevitably roll over to check your phone. Emails, Twitter replies (none), and finally Facebook. Based on what you see there, you're going to have your first instinct on calling it a good day or a bad day.

Well, my friends, today's already one of those bad days as the first bit of news we caught was the end of Britain's Virgin Trains. You can read all the details behind the line's impending closure at BusinessWeek, but essentially Virgin Trains rebid to continue running their services on the privatized west coast lines—lines they've been running for 15 years at currently 30 million passengers per year—and LOST.

Virgin will continue running until December, when the switch will take place to see Virgin out and UK rail company FirstGroup in. This means the end of slick, red-painted tilting Virgin Pendolinos on routes including London to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, and Liverpool (our favorite).

Naturally our first thought was, "surely, this can't be the end?" Sorry to say that it is, if you read this bit in an official statement from Sir Richard Branson:

Based on the current flawed system, it is extremely unlikely that we would bid again for a franchise. The process is too costly and uncertain, with our latest bid costing £14 million. We have made realistic offers for the East Coast twice before which were rejected by the Department for Transport for completely unrealistic ones and therefore will have to think hard before embarking on another bid.

Note the use of the words "extremely unlikely." Sad face.

For those travelers who never got to experience a trip on Virgin Trains, let us just say this: Having been raised in the US, we are thus also raised not to expect much from train travel, including basic human decency. Our own past trips on Virgin Trains flipped this on its head; sometimes we would hop onto the platform at a destination positively giddy, our faith in rail travel renewed (if just for the short term). And somehow we always managed to score those advance purchase First Class fares that made it doubly sweet with lounge access.

Naturally we hate to see any transportation brand with good motives go away. We're now used to dealing with airline bankruptcies, but trains we take a little harder. Excuse us while we sob in the corner, clutching a steamer trunk.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]

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Sad

This is not the type of news I want to read on my birthday. We were so close to taking a Virgin train back in July, but couldn't make it work. Now I wish we had more than ever.

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