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1998-10-07 OPR-001
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Focus on integrated transport as Stagecoach / Virgin acquisition gets Franchising Director's approval


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OPRAF

Focus on integrated transport as Stagecoach / Virgin acquisition gets Franchising Director's approval
_______________________________________________________________


date
7 October 1998
source OPRAF
type Press release



Franchising Director John O'Brien today announced a major step towards integrated transport as he gave his approval to the acquisition by StagecoachHoldings plc of a 49% stake in the Virgin Rail Group.

In considering whether to approve this acquisition, which constitutes a change of control under the franchise agreement, and also involves Virgin increasing its effective shareholding in the company from 41% to 51%, the Franchising Director has taken into account the extensive package of passenger benefits. The package, which is a substantial step towards integrated transport, is in
line with the Government's recent White Paper A New Deal for Transport.

The benefits extend to passengers in almost all the areas where Stagecoach buses and Virgin Rail operate, with through ticketing arrangements in 30 towns and cities, and new bus links to stations.

The package includes:

Integrated transport
· A £1 add-on return bus ticket will allow rail passengers to travel anywhere within designated bus zones in 21 towns and cities.
· Five new bus links to stations provide for over 250 new rail link journeys per week. Buses will have direct communication to rail control, with distinctive branding and through ticketing facilities.
· Five existing bus services will be re-timetabled or re-routed to integrate with rail services. As five towns on the routes have Stagecoach bus services, through tickets to the local bus network will be included.
· In four towns where South West Trains has existing through ticketing arrangements with another bus operator, these arrangements will be extended to Virgin Rail passengers.
· A further five possible bus links will be evaluated.
· Identical through ticketing arrangements would be extended to any other rail or bus operator wishing to participate. (See Notes to Editors for details of towns and cities affected.)

Passenger's Charter
· On both of Virgin Rail's franchises, refund vouchers will be offered on a 'no
quibble ' basis, i.e. regardless of who is at fault, and all season ticket holders
will also be eligible for refunds.
· Refunds generally apply after delays of 60 minutes, but on Euston - West Midlands services this will be reduced
immediately to 45 minutes; once the West Coast line upgrade is completed,
refunds on all West Coast services will apply after 30 minutes.
· The amount Virgin Rail refunds for delays will be increased from 20% to 25%; for delays of over two hours the refund will be 100%.

Other improvements
· 16 new vehicles will be procured for use on either South West Trains or Virgin Rail franchises by December 2000.
· £0.5 million worth of improved customer facilities at West Coast and CrossCountry stations where Virgin Rail Group is not the lead retailer will be provided by the e nd of 2002; an additional £0.5
million worth of improvements to ticket sales outlets will also be provided by the end of 2002.
· Senior managers from West Coast, CrossCountry and South West Trains, will each host a passenger forum at a large station every three months, where they will listen to passenger's views on the quality and suitability of services.

Announcing his approval of the acquisition, Mr O 'Brien said today: "I am pleased to have been able to secure such a comprehensive package to benefit passengers from Scotland to the West Country. In negotiating this package, I have focused on the aims of the Government's White Paper on integrated transport. The result is a significant step towards a national rail/bus network and I very much hope that other rail and bus operators will seize the opportunity to participate and build on this. I believe I have secured the best deal possible for passengers across all the networks concerned."

Notes to Editors:
1. Areas where a £1 bus add-on ticket will apply are Banbury, Basingstoke,
Carlisle, Cheltenham, Chesterfield, Darlington, Exeter, Gloucester, Lancaster,
Leamington Spa, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Nuneaton, Oxford,
Paignton, Preston, Rugby, Sheffield, Stockport, Torquay, Winchester.
2. The five new, dedicated bus links are: Stratford-Upon-Avon to Rugby or
Coventry station Bromsgrove to Birmingham International Luton town centre
and airport to Milton Keynes station Hythe Waterside to Southampton Central
Buxton to Macclesfield station (extended to Peak District in the Summer).
3. The five existing bus services to be integrated with rail services are:
Workington (via Cockermouth and Keswick) to Penrith station Southport to
Preston station Cambridge (via Bedford) to Milton Keynes station Cambridge
to Oxford station Oxford (via Bicester and Buckingham) to Milton Keynes
station.
4. The four towns where South West Trains has existing rail/bus through
ticketing arrangements are Southampton, Portsmouth, Poole and
Bournemouth.
5. The further five possible bus/rail links to be evaluated are: Inverness - Perth
- Stirling - Motherwell Stranraer - Dumfries - Carlisle Salcombe - Torbay -
Exeter Heads of the Valleys - Monmouth - Bristol Parkway Abingdon - Oxford.
6. Virgin Rail Group operate two franchises: CrossCountry and West Coast
Trains. The CrossCountry franchise was awarded in January 1997 for a
period of 15 years. The West Coast franchise was awarded in March 1997,
also for a period 15 years.
7. Stagecoach Holdings plc also operate two franchises: South West Trains
and Island Line. South West Trains was awarded in February 1996 for a
period of seven years. Island Line was awarded in October 1996 for a period
of five years.


Railhub Archive ::: 1998-10-07 OPR-001





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