April 18, 2024

Virgin Trains calls for airline-style seating

Virgin Trains has called for airline-style ticketing and compulsory reserved seating on long-distance rail services in its submission to the Williams Rail Review, launched by the government last September.

The operator, which currently runs long-distance West Coast trains, suggests a set of radical reforms, which include importing the airline model into the rail sector to tackle overcrowding and complex ticketing, increase competition and reduce fare prices.

Virgin says standing on trains would be abolished through a reservation-only system which guarantees every customer a seat in normal operations.

In addition, today’s complex mix of tickets would be replaced by airline-style ticketing, with one fare available at any given time for any one service.

An airline-style model would also see rail operators competing against each other for train slots that they own indefinitely.

Virgin Group’s Senior Partner, Patrick McCall, says: “This submission was written before the recent government decision to disqualify our bid for the West Coast Partnership.

“However, we believe the recommendations are more pertinent than ever given this news.

“Keith Williams has said that franchising cannot continue as it is now, and it is clear we need systemic industry reform which is driven by principles and a whole-system redesign.”

While the model could be widely-applied on the UK’s long-distance routes, Virgin’s submission suggests that the East Coast route or new HS2 services would be the most straightforward starting points for the new system.