Record year for Virgin Trains brings £33m payday


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Virgin Trains has posted record revenues, leaving its owners with a bumper £32.5m dividend, just a day after it emerged that fares were set to be increased.

The holding company West Coast Trains filed its accounts this week relating to the running of the line between London and Glasgow, which also revealed it had handed the Government a £110m premium payment. The group reported that sales rose 11 per cent to £753m in the year to March, as passenger numbers soared past 28 million "and drove ticket sales faster than any other UK train operator".

Virgin Rail Group is 51 per cent-owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, with the rest held by Stagecoach. The business paid the two shareholders a £32.5m dividend last year, with the remaining £6.5m in profits ploughed back into the business.

Tony Collins, the chief executive of Virgin Rail, said the partnership with the Department for Transport "has seen passenger numbers grow faster than the market over the last six years. We expect to continue this as a result of joint investments such as the recent addition of a new Pendolino train".

Virgin, which took over the running of the franchise 14 years ago and received £1.4bn in subsidies, is at present in negotiations with the Government to extend its current franchise, and is also drawing up its bid for the new West Coast franchise, which starts in December 2012.

Mr Collins added that as a result of its management of the West Coast Main Line, the Government "could expect a bigger premium payment next year on the back of further strong growth". The state also received £150m from South West Trains and £106m from First Great Western.

On Tuesday, it emerged that passengers were set to be hit with an 8 per cent rise in regulated ticket prices from January, sparking outrage from consumer groups.