Farewell Virgin Trains – end of the line for train operator after 22 years

Virgin Pendolino at Preston // Credit: RailAdvent

Virgin Trains are bidding farewell to the West Coast Mainline today as it hands over the West Coast Mainline Franchise to Avanti West Coast.

Virgin Rail Group was awarded the InterCity West Coast franchise back in January 1997 and began operating trains on the 9th March 1997.

The biggest news from Virgin Trains was the introduction of the Class 390 Pendolino trains, which tilted when going round a corner.

The train operator operates two types of trains, the Class 390 Pendolinos, and Class 221 Super Voyagers.

Virgin Trains Super Voyager 221101 101 Squadron at Lancaster
Virgin Trains Super Voyager 221101 101 Squadron at Lancaster // Credit: RailAdvent
Virgin Trains Pendolino at Oxenholme Lake District
Virgin Trains Pendolino at Oxenholme Lake District // Credit: RailAdvent

And on its last day of operations, charities across the United Kingdom from London to Manchester, Birmingham to Scotland are benefitting from £50,000 raised from the sale of train nameplates.

The winners of the auction included enthusiasts and Virgin Trains employees who were eager to bid for some railway memorabilia.

This latest sum brings the total amount raised from nameplate auctions this year to over £130,000. The Teenage Cancer Trust, Rethink Mental Illness and Severn Valley Railway Trust are just some of the beneficiaries.

Winning bids for the nameplates ranged from £500 to over £4000, with City of Birmingham going for the highest amount.

Here are a few images from our supporters of various Virgin Trains:

Virgin Voyager
Credit: Callum Calvert
Virgin Pendolino
Credit: Cameron White
Virgin Trains
Credit: Cameron White

Joanna Buckley, Community Manager at Virgin Trains said:

“We wanted to find some good homes for our nameplates.

We’ve been blown away by the response and delighted to be in a position to support some fantastic causes in our local communities.”

“It’s been a wonderful 22 years transforming services on the west coast and we’re proud of everything our people have achieved in that time. But it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our customers, and this is just our small way of saying thank you.”

Ruth McCaughley, Fundraising Manager said:

“Virgin Trains have supported us in a range of ways over the years, from donations to our centre, to book swaps and taking part in fundraising events,”

“As we enter the winter the need for our services grows and this additional support from Virgin Trains is a wonderful final gesture. We are incredibly grateful for their support and we are going to really miss them.”

Marie-Claire O’Brien, CEO of the New Leaf Initiative, a Birmingham based charity that helps ex-offenders find work added:

“Virgin Trains have been so supportive. They’ve willingly given their time to help with training and interview skills, and also offered employment to a number of our people. This final donation speaks volumes. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!”

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  1. Rest in Peace Virgin Trains. 1997-2019. At least the new Avanti West Coast franchise will keep the Class 390 Pendolinos but are to replace the Class 221 Super Voyagers with 23 new IET sets to be built and in service in 2022/23. But goodbye Virgin Trains. I bet Richard Branson is crying.


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