Virgin train going through Chester le Street

The return of Virgin?

Virgin has confirmed that it has submitted an application for four Open Access rail paths, as it eyes a return to the UK’s tracks.

The application has been sent to the Office of Rail and Road and, if approved, will see the company returning to the West Coast Main Line on which it ran between 1997 and 2019.

Proposals concern the operation of separate services between London Euston and Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Glasgow Central respectively. This would provide direct competition for Avanti West Coast, the company that took over the inter-city West Coast main line from Virgin Trains in August 2019.

Virgin quote

A spokesperson for the Virgin Group said:

“Whilst this application is just the first step towards bringing Virgin back to the rail network, we think Open Access is the way forward. Open Access increases consumer choice and competition both of which Virgin has always supported.

“Virgin is exceptionally proud of everything Virgin Trains and its wonderful onboard teams achieved in the UK. In the 20 years Virgin Trains operated on the West Coast, they reduced journey times considerably, tripled services on key routes and provided an exceptional customer experience while increasing passenger numbers from 8 million to 42 million per year.  The team won many awards for service and was incredibly popular with the British public.  We’re confident customers would welcome Virgin Trains back, providing them with much-needed choice and competition.”

The government has been encouraging the application for more open access rail services as it looks to increase competition with the operators that are currently running the services.

This announcement by Virgin has come after a number of companies, including FirstGroup (through Lumo) and Alstom (through the Wrexham, Shropshire and Midlands Railway) have outlined their plans to operate new rail services across the country.


Image credit: iStock


RTM April/May 24


Immerse yourself with the latest thought leadership on intelligent wayfinding for a more inclusive railway, a revolutionary approach to investment in the south, and strategic investments unlocking the North’s potential.

More articles...

View all
TransCityRail Banner


Mids \ 29 02 24
South \ 11 07 24
North \ 07 11 24

TransCityRail is a series of regional, interactive and insightful events across the country bringing together leaders, collaborators, problem solvers and innovators in a creative and invigorating way.

This series of events supports and informs the whole of the rail industry and connects suppliers with buyers, specifiers, leaders and decision-makers looking to procure a wide variety of innovative products and services for their region.

Rail Technology Magazine Podcast

Listen to industry leaders on everything within rail

Whether it's the latest advancements in rail technology, policies, innovations, or the challenges facing the rail industry providers, we cover it all.


Join us as we engage with top rail professionals, industry leaders, and policy experts to bring you insightful conversations that matter.