Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Virgin Trains must lose its franchise

I have traveled on trains in Africa and Asia. No rail journey is as bad as that between Glasgow and Penzance on a Virgin train.

Virgin Trains is a UK long distance rail operator. They currently hold the West Coast rail franchise.

A return journey from Glasgow to Penzance:

1. The journey is too expensive. Cost of a standard open return - £251

2. The journey is too slow. In theory the journey time is around 9 hours and 50 minutes. Our journey from Penzance to Glasgow took over ten hours due to delays. We missed our connections.

(The cost of a one week holiday in Cyprus can be as low as £250. The flight time to Cyprus is around 4 hours.)

3. The trains are overcrowded. The trains we travelled on had only four carriages.

Many passengers were forced to stand in the aisles because there were too few seats. Only between Plymouth and Penzance were there enough seats.

4. Catering is poor. There was no restaurant car. In the tiny buffet car, the tea and coffee machines were not working.

5. Maintenance is poor. Some of the toilets were out of action.

6. There is not enough space for luggage. There are only two small areas where suitcases can be placed. Much luggage has to be dumped in the aisles. The trains seem to be designed for commuters with little or no luggage.

7. Punctuality is a major problem. Our train was over one hour late and we missed our connection.

Richard Branson's Virgin West Coast Scottish route is often at the bottom of the punctuality league.

Virgin Trains tends to receive the most written complaints.

8. Virgin staff are often rude and unhelpful.

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