Branson plans a private rail service to Scotland

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The Independent Online
RICHARD BRANSON'S Virgin company is planning to run a private rail service between London and Scotland before the legislation to privatise BR is enacted.

Virgin plans to use refurbished InterCity 125 trains in a pilot scheme due to start in the summer of 1993 which will run between London and Edinburgh, Glasgow, Teesside, York, Newcastle and Durham. Mr Branson's original intention to run a non-stop service to Scotland has been shelved but Virgin intends trains to stop only once or twice on each journey, much less than BR's trains, avoiding places such as Darlington, Peterborough and Stevenage.

If the scheme, expected to cost pounds 15m to set up, is successful, Virgin would seek to run trains, to be called Virgin Flyer, on many other routes from London, including Aberdeen to Dundee, Manchester to Liverpool, and Cardiff to Bristol, as well as less used routes such as Blackpool to Lancaster and Shrewsbury to Telford. There are also plans to run trains to Glasgow from London via Sheffield and from the Channel tunnel to the North via London.

Will Whitehorn, a spokesman for Virgin, said the company would offer an airline type service: 'Prices would be the same as BR's or less, but we would provide a free meal, booked seats, in-seat television on three-inch screens and cabin crew service.' There will be two classes. Virgin is hoping that the TV sets will be able to receive live television rather than just in-train videos.

The pilot scheme will involve four trains per day from London to Edinburgh and five between London and Newcastle. There will be a daily train to Teesside station, which is no longer served by InterCity.

A tie-up with British Midland will enable passengers to fly in one direction and go by train in the other all on one ticket.