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Soaring Chester visitor numbers help set a new record for Virgin Trains

Press Release   •   Feb 14, 2018 00:01 GMT

  • Journeys on the Chester to London route top 522,000, up 5.7% year on year

New figures from Virgin Trains show journeys between Chester and London have broken through the half a million mark, setting a record for the number of journeys taken by train.

For the first time since Virgin Trains took over the West Coast Main Line in 1997, journeys between London and Chester have surpassed half a million. In the months between January and December 2017, 522,000 journeys were made between the two cities - an increase of nearly 6% (5.7%) on the previous year and nearly a quarter (23%) compared to five years ago.

The figures, released today by Virgin Trains mirror those from Marketing Cheshire, which confirmed swelling numbers of visitors to the city of 62m, an increase of 7.7% on the previous year. Many in the region are excited by the prospect of a new Northern Forest, which some are predicting will significantly boost visitor numbers and create £2bn for the surrounding economy.

Since taking over the West Coast Main Line 20 years ago, Virgin Trains has transformed journeys between London and Chester – increasing the number of direct services from three a day to 14 a day in 2017 and reducing the journey time by 20 minutes to two hours. The company is celebrating its 20th anniversary of running services on the west coast mainline.

This record growth follows investment by Virgin Trains designed to improve the experience for customers, including the introduction of m-tickets, and the extension of the booking horizon to six months – meaning customers can now take advantage of fares from as little as £17 one way between London and Chester – and the launch of its onboard entertainment portal Beam. The hourly service takes two hours to reach the Roman city, during which passengers can sit back and relax.

Amanda Hines, General Manager at Virgin Trains on the west coast, said: "We’re proud to be welcoming a record number of journeys to and from the Chester, as we celebrate over 20 years on the track. At Virgin Trains we’ve strengthened the rail link between Chester and the capital, helping to support the local economy and play our part in bringing visitors to the city. We hope to continue to bring more people to this beautiful city and its many attractions for years to come."


Notes to Editors

VisitEngland Visitor Attraction Trends in England Report

More information about VisitEngland’s Visitor Attraction Trends in England Report 2016 can be found here:

About Virgin Trains:

Stagecoach and Virgin are working in partnership to operate the East Coast and West Coast inter-city routes under the Virgin Trains brand. Together, they are on track to revolutionise rail travel across the UK.

The combined network connects some of the nation’s most iconic destinations including Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, York and London.

Virgin Trains is committed to delivering a high speed, high frequency service, offering shorter journey times, more comfortable travel and excellent customer service. Customers consistently rate Virgin Trains as one of the top long-distance rail franchise operators in the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) commissioned by industry watchdog, Transport Focus.

On the East Coast route, £140m is being invested to create a more personalised travel experience. We have already invested over £40m in our existing fleet, including £21m refurbishing the interiors and £16m towards improving the engines of our trains. Customers can now benefit from 42 additional services between Edinburgh and London every week, and an extra 22 Saturday services between Leeds and London – a total of 1.74 million additional seats since May 2016. 2018 will see the introduction of completely new Azuma trains being built in the UK by Hitachi.

The West Coast route has a proud record of challenging the status quo - from introducing tilting Pendolino trains, to a pioneering automated delay repay scheme and becoming the first franchised rail operator to offer m-Tickets for all ticket types.

Working together, the partnership railway of the public and private sectors has published a long-term plan, called In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity, to change and improve Britain’s railway. The plan will secure almost £85bn of additional economic benefits to the country and contains four commitments which will see rail companies: strengthen our economic contribution to the country; improve customers’ satisfaction; boost the communities we serve; and, create more and better jobs in rail. For more information go to Britain Runs on Rail.

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Press Office: 0845 000 3333.

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