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2012-08-16 FIR-001
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InterCity West Coast rail franchise: your questions answered


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FirstGroup plc

InterCity West Coast rail franchise: your questions answered
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related documents


2012-08-15 New operator for West Coast rail passengers (DfT Department for Transport)

2012-08-15 Press Statement: from Sir Richard Branson, Founder Virgin Group (Virgin Rail Group)

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date
16 August 2012
source FirstGroup plc
type Written statement



The Department for Transport has awarded the next InterCity West Coast franchise to FirstGroup from 9 December 2012. This means we'll be operating the trains and 17 of the stations on the prestigious route that serves London, the West Midlands, Manchester, Merseyside, North Wales, Glasgow and Edinburgh; and connecting many communities in between. We're looking forward to welcoming you onto our services.

This page aims to answer the questions that we have been asked most frequently so far, but please do get in touch by email if there's anything else you'd like to know at MDWestCoast@firstgroup.com.
Will there be a new train company?

Yes, over the coming weeks, we will be setting up the new train operating company that will run the trains and look after you during your journey aboard our services. Employees currently working for Virgin Trains on the West Coast route will transfer to the new company on 9 December.
Where will your trains go to?

We will continue to operate trains to all current destinations from 9 December. In addition we will be building on the current services with more trains, additional stops at some stations and the introduction of new direct services between London and Blackpool; Telford and Shrewsbury; and Bolton. We plan to have made all of these changes by the end of 2016.
What's happening to the existing trains?

We know passengers like the Pendolino and Voyager trains, and all of these trains will continue to be used on our routes. 106 extra Pendolino carriages are being added in time for December, so there will be more seats straight away.

We are undertaking a major refit of all these trains including more comfortable seating areas in both Standard and First Class and improved luggage space, making them even better. We're also buying 11 new trains so that by 2016 there will be 40,000 more seats per day available on our trains compared with 2011.
Where will the new trains be used?

The 11 new 125mph six-car electric trains that we are buying will run between Birmingham and Scotland from 2016, not only adding capacity but also being better for the environment than running diesel trains on a fully electrified route.

The diesel trains will be moved on to other routes to add capacity, improve the frequency of the service and to allow us to introduce new direct services connecting Blackpool, Shrewsbury, Telford and Bolton with London.

These changes will also allow us to cut journey times for many customers, with the travel time from Glasgow to London, for example, being reduced by around 15 minutes.
What about the employees?

We are looking forward to welcoming existing West Coast employees to FirstGroup, on the same terms and conditions that they enjoy today. We will continue to invest in our employees' development and well-being, providing them with long term opportunities.

High quality customer care is central to our service, so rumours that we are going to cut staffing levels are not true. We anticipate we will have roughly the same number of employees in five years time as today, and our plans will see an increase in visible customer service employees on trains and at stations.
How about catering on the trains?

We'll be maintaining an attractive catering service on all our trains, with plans to refurbish shop areas and add more at-seat services on longer distance routes to keep you refreshed on your journey without having to leave your seat.
Will you have WiFi on the trains?

We know reliable WiFi on the train is an important service for many customers, so we are planning a major upgrade that will allow us to offer free WiFi access for all customers and better coverage for mobile phones once the upgrade is complete.
Will ticket prices change?

We are committed to offering great value to customers. We are backing this commitment with a plan to reduce the price of Standard Anytime Return fares by 15% on average, meaning that it'll cost less to buy a flexible or 'walk on' ticket for your journey during peak periods. We will continue to offer great value reduced price Advance tickets in both the peak and off peak periods.

We'll have more information on fares for you before December.
Will you change the way tickets work?

We have big plans to make it quicker and easier for customers to buy and receive their tickets including the introduction of smart ticketing across the network.

We will be announcing more details in the near future.
I've already bought a ticket. Will it still be valid?

If you've bought a ticket that is valid beyond 9 December, then don't worry, you can use it as normal with the same terms that you have now.
Will railcard holders continue to be able to travel in the peak periods using "Off-Peak" tickets?

Yes, we plan to continue allowing railcard holders to travel on these discounted tickets during peak times.
What about stations?

We appreciate that the quality of our station services is very important to customers and we will be investing in improving the stations we will operate to make them better for you.

We will be offering better customer facilities including new and improved customer information systems, greater security, and improved accessibility.

We will be introducing automated ticket barriers at 21 stations on the route to enable smart ticketing and will use that opportunity to improve station layouts. We will also ensure that there are attractive retail options for customers.

Our approach will be to work in partnership with local communities to make sure that the stations provide for their needs and priorities.
How will you work with others and share information?

We will be open and collaborative in our relationships with our customers, employees, service partners and all those with an interest in our services. We have agreed a new way of working with Network Rail that will help us to improve service reliability together.

We will actively consult all those affected when we propose any changes to services, and will make information about our performance widely available.


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