Right of Reply: Chris Tibbits

The managing director of Virgin Trains replies to our criticisms of their service.
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The Independent Culture
YOUR PIECE, "Virgin's 148 days of no rail service" I feel gives a misleading review of void days.

A void day is when operators feel they are not providing an effective service to their passengers, and means that season ticket holders will automatically be given one day's extension to their season ticket.

An example of this includes 27 October this year when severe infrastructure problems at Rugby and Camden, combined with the failure of another operator's service and severe weather conditions in the North-west resulted in very few Virgin trains being on time.

It should be noted that all these events are beyond our control. However, we at Virgin Trains take responsibility for our passengers and provide compensation and most of the cost of extending season tickets.

Until the introduction of our new Passengers Charter on 6 December the only mechanism open to Virgin Trains for making recompense to season ticket holders for poor service was to declare a void day.

To look after its customers, Virgin Trains has given a liberal interpretation of the application of this method which is agreed with the Office of the Rail Franchise Operator (Opraf) and operated previously under British Rail.

Recompense to other customers is made when individual applications are submitted as a result of disrupted service.

The headline in The Independent was particularly misleading. The total is not as illustrated, where they add the results of two separate franchises together, and count the same delay several times.

This situation arises as figures are published separately for void days on each of the three West Coast mainline routes. We do know that our performance could be better.

We are working with Railtrack to ensure a better service both in the near future and after our major investment in new track, signalling and trains.