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Virgin Trains runs majority of services today during unwarranted union strike action on the west coast

Press Release   •   Dec 15, 2017 00:01 GMT

  • Virgin Trains has offered significantly above-inflation pay rise, which the RMT and TSSA unions have rejected
  • Union leaderships attempt to inflict damage and disrupt passengers’ travel plans with strikedates for 15th and 22nd December and 5th, 8th, 26th and 29th January
  • Virgin Trains confirms that most west coast services will run thanks to detailed contingency plans

Virgin Trains has confirmed that it will run the majority of its west coast services during industrial action by the RMT and TSSA unions. Reiterating its commitment to keep customers moving over the festive season, the train operator reassured customers that they will still be able to travel on the strike dates announced by the RMT and TSSA leaderships.

Phil Whittingham, Managing Director for Virgin Trains on the west coast, said: “The RMT and TSSA leadership are attempting to cause disruption when many will want to travel by train to spend time with loved ones. We have explored a generous 3.6% pay increase, however the unions’ leaderships are insisting on 4%, double the two percent average increase seen across the UK this year.

“We know how important it is for friends and families to get together over the festive season, so whilst we’re sorry for the disruption we will keep the majority of our trains running with fully-trained staff onboard and at stations. We remain open to talks with the RMT and TSSA, and urge them to call off these strikes which will cost their members pay for no gain.”

We expect to run the following services:

  • One service each way per hour between London and Liverpool (normal timetable)
  • Two services each way per hour between London and Manchester via Stoke, not Crewe. Trains will not serve Wilmslow.
  • Two services each way per hour between London and the West Midlands.
  • One fast service each way per hour between London and Glasgow (normal timetable).
  • Apart from the 04.48 Holyhead to London service and the return at 17.10, we will not serve Chester and North Wales. There is a replacement bus service between Chester and Crewe, and Arriva Trains Wales will accept tickets between Chester and North Wales stations.
  • Trains will not serve Edinburgh which can be reached via other operators’ services. Tickets will be valid on those operators.

We recommend that customers check the details of their train before setting off for the station. Services are likely to be busier than usual, so customers are strongly advised to book a seat and avoid peak times if they do not have a reservation.

The contingency plans follow RMT’s and TSSA’s announcements that their leaderships have rejected a 3.2% pay deal first offered by Virgin Trains in April 2017. Since then, in a bid to agree a deal, Virgin Trains has explored a 3.6% pay increase for 2017/18 backdated to April 2017, and a deal for the following year of RPI (Jan 2018) +0.2%. This increased offer is in return for the greater security a two-year deal provides for our customers.

The offer has been rejected by the unions’ leaderships which are insisting on a 4% increase for this year, followed by an increase the following year of RPI +0.25%. Any informal offer needs approval by the Department for Transport before being agreed.

Provisional estimates from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2017, the average (median) pay increase for full-time workers was 2%. In agreement with RMT and TSSA, Virgin Trains has traditionally linked annual pay awards to the January RPI figure (2.6% in Jan 2017), and has consistently paid its staff above RPI.

Customers take over 37m journeys on Virgin Trains west coast route every year, which serves 49 stations between London and Glasgow, including key economic centres like Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.

Virgin Trains services on the east coast are not affected.

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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