Virgin aim to solve cross-border train ticket chaos


By Michael MacLeod

OVERCROWDING on train journeys between Scotland and England could be solved if strict rules on ticket fares were relaxed, according to the head of Virgin Trains.

Chris Gibb is angry that hundreds of seats are often left empty during peak periods on London to Glasgow services, while passengers on trains leaving minutes later in off-peak periods struggle to get a seat.

He blames an “outdated” fare structure between peak and off-peak periods for the problems.

Virgin has proposed replacing government-regulated off-peak ticket pricing by shifting passengers to trains with fewer pre-booked seats.

But unions and passenger groups warned the plan could open the door to uncontrolled fare increases.

Mr Gibb told a weekend interview: “What we’d like to do is spread the load more evenly between peak and off-peak periods by having a more gradiated system of prices.

“Fare regulation is seen as non-negotiable by people like Passenger Focus.

“But it’s a constraint on our ability to tackle overcrowding.”

Ticket discrepancy

Virgin currently offers Glasgow to London tickets from £12 to passengers who book specific travel times in advance, but charges £287 for the most flexible return ticket.

Ashwin Kumar, of Passenger Focus, said: “Virgin could reduce the peak period ticket prices right away if it wanted to.

“The real problem with fares is the ridiculously high premium passengers have to pay for flexibility.”

The Virgin bid was also criticised by RMT union leader, Bob Crow.

He said: “They may be spinning it as something intended to ease overcrowding but, as sure as night follows day, you can be sure they would use this to jack up prices on off-peak services.”