It is business as usual for Peterborough commuters on the new Virgin Trains East Coast

Virgin staff Stuart George, Oliver Rogers and Mark Turner at Peterborough Train Station EMN-150103-185940009
Virgin staff Stuart George, Oliver Rogers and Mark Turner at Peterborough Train Station EMN-150103-185940009
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It seemed to be business as usual today (Monday) for thousands of rail commuters from Peterborough as they travelled on the newly privatised East Coast main line.

Trains heading from the north to London were still in the familiar East Coast colours and the fares and running times were the same.

But there were a number of smalls signs that the new Stagecoach and Virgin partnership had taken over from the government-owned East Coast.

Staff at Peterborough rail station wwere sporting bright red Virgin tops and there was an array of dazzling red leaflets on seats and posters in the stations.

Today is day two of the new eight year contract secured by Stagecoach and Richard Branson’s Virgin to run the East Coast rail services.

The consortium, called Inter City Railways Ltd (ICRL), won the £3.3 billion contract to take over the services from the East Coast late last year.

Claire Perry, transport minister, at the launch of Virgin Trains East Coast at London's King's Cross station.  David Parry/PA Wire

Claire Perry, transport minister, at the launch of Virgin Trains East Coast at London's King's Cross station. David Parry/PA Wire

The line has been operated by a taxpayer-owned rail company since 2009.

A spokeswoman for ICRL said: “From day one, we’ll have lots of extra staff available at stations to help passengers and passengers will notice that many things will start to be rebranded.

“Rebranding the trains is a bit more time consuming.

“We already have a couple done in the full new livery and all our trains will gradually have their new ‘coats’ fitted between March and August.

She added: “We have published a new passenger’s charter and a customer report – The Red Report.

“We’ll also launch the facility for customers to collect either Nectar points or Virgin Flying Club points online, and to use Nectar points towards the cost of train tickets.

“Our people will be wearing new Virgin Trains East Coast Badges and will have new lanyards.

“Lots of posters, information and on board announcements will have been rebranded to reflect the new organisation.”

A special event to mark the launch of the new Virgin Trains East Coast service took place at London King’s Cross station today attended by Rail Minister Claire Perry, and hosted by the managing director of Virgin Trains East Coast, David Horne.

At the launch, a new communities fund was unveiled.

Customers and communities along the new Virgin Trains East Coast network will be able to bid for a share of a £3m innovation fund.

The fund will be used for projects suggested directly by Virgin Trains East Coast customers and their communities.

The money is in addition to the £140 million already committed to the franchise by the Stagecoach/Virgin partnership.

Twice-yearly stakeholder summits will be held along the network to discuss the ideas put forward, before the best ideas are given to the Secretary of State for approval.

The scheme will see £500,000 available each year of the new franchise from 2017.

Virgin Trains East Coast will use the time before then to set up the customer feedback mechanisms and begin gathering ideas for the first set of awards.

Claire Perry, transport minister, said: “Today is the start of a new chapter for the East Coast franchise.

“Passengers will benefit from thousands of extra seats, new connections and improved services between London and Scotland.

“The deal also means more than £3 billion will be returned to taxpayers.

“We are investing record amounts in building a world-class railway as part of our long-term economic plan.”
Mr Horne said: “Passengers using the East Coast mainline are already set to benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds of infrastructure investment and service improvements over the next decade.

“Our new ‘Customer and Communities Improvement Fund’ builds on that but puts the decision- making power firmly in the hands of the customers and communities we serve.

“The fund allows Virgin Trains East Coast passengers to shape the future of their train line like never before.

“We will listen to what they want as we build our customer offering around our passengers.

“Asking the communities along the route what they want will also complement the major programmes we are committed to around helping young people and small businesses along one of Britain’s most important train lines.”