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Virgin Trains helps set the stage for theatre revival

Press Release   •   Nov 17, 2017 12:30 GMT

Loco 91 126 "Darlington Hippodrome" takes a bow to (left to right): the mayor of Darlington, Cllr Jan Taylor; Cllr Nick Wallis; Leader of Darlington Borough Council Cllr Bill Dixon; Darlington Theatre Director Lynda Winstanley.

Virgin Trains has played its part in the reopening of an Edwardian theatre with strong historical connections to the railway – by naming a train “Darlington Hippodrome”.

The Darlington Hippodrome theatre, which is a few minutes’ walk from the town’s main railway station, will reopen tomorrow after an eighteen month £12.3m restoration project.

The theatre, which was nearly closed for good in 2010, has been painstakingly restored to its original Edwardian splendour as well as transformed into a modern hub of theatre, creativity and learning.

Virgin Trains looks forward to continuing a tradition stretching back more than a century of taking actors, performers and theatregoers to Darlington by train. And it hopes many people will be inspired to take a trip to the theatre after seeing “Darlington Hippodrome” nameplates and logos on locomotive 91 126 as it travels across its east coast route.

Theatre Director Lynda Winstanley, who has worked at the theatre for 34 years, said: “We’re thrilled that Virgin Trains is working with us to play its part in not only promoting the theatre far and wide on its train, but also reviving the tradition of taking actors, performers and theatre-goers to Darlington.

“Darlington station is very close to the town’s iconic theatre, and we know that many of our future performers are already booking to travel with Virgin Trains. This harks back to the early 20th century tradition of the ‘fish and actors’ special’ train which carried fish to the town on a Sunday to sell during the week, as well the actors, their entourage, sets and even animals which would all perform at the theatre.

“Having a train named after the newly restored theatre is such a unique opportunity and I shed a tear when I saw our ‘Darlington Hippodrome’ train pull into Darlington station for the first time.”

David Horne, Managing Director of Virgin Trains on its east coast route, which manages Darlington station, said: “Virgin Trains is committed to supporting the history and heritage of this great route, and we’re delighted to play a small part in the relaunch of this historic and important theatre by naming a train ‘Darlington Hippodrome’.

“Thousands of people will see the name on the side of our locomotive as it travels across the UK, and we look forward to welcoming on-board theatregoers as well as continuing the long-standing tradition of actors and performers taking the train to work at the Darlington Hippodrome.

“We’re investing £140m to transform this railway, and our new fleet of 65 Virgin Azuma trains, which are being built in a factory close to Darlington, will bring faster journeys, more services and greater comfort for customers after their launch in December 2018.”

The ornate theatre was originally opened in 1907 as “The New Hippodrome and Palace Theatre of Varieties”, before later reverting to the “Civic Theatre”. Its restoration has been made possible through a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid as well as other fundraising activity.

ENDS

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.

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