Rail firm rapped for great train '˜robbery'

Rail bosses have refused to back down over a Lancashire fares scandal being dubbed the 'great train robbery.'
Mark Menzies at Preston StationMark Menzies at Preston Station
Mark Menzies at Preston Station

Executives from Virgin were confronted by MP Mark Menzies in Parliament this week about the company’s pricing policy for journeys between London and Preston and Lancaster.

Later the member for Fylde accused the rail firm of “fleecing” passengers from Preston and declared: “Virgin were left in no doubt of the strength of my feelings, and my constituents’ feelings on this matter.

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“They do not want to be charged more than three times as much as people from Lancaster for their train journeys to London. It is simply not acceptable.

“They offered no resolution, but reiterated the main reason for the higher prices was the fact many people who board at Preston are regarded as business passengers. But where is the business lounge at Preston Station? Where are the facilities for all this business travel? It’s just an excuse to fleece Preston passengers.”

Earlier this week Mr Menzies wrote to the Rail Minister asking for clarification over Virgin’s West Coast Main Line pricing structure “within their franchise terms.”

A ticket on the 08.38 service from Lancaster to London today, returning at 17.57, costs £93.20. But the journey on the same train, starting and ending from Preston, one stop closer to London, was priced at £320.50.

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Those purchasing tickets from Lancaster are not allowed to get on the train at Preston.

The anomolies were highlighted last week by businessman Steve Morrissey who was detained by police at Euston and wrongly accused of buying a ticket from Lancaster, but boarding at Preston. Virgin later apologised.

The company has refused our requests to put forward an executive to be interviewed about the fare structure.

But in a statement a spokesperson said: “For many years we have been pleased to offer a discount to passengers travelling from Lancaster to London. This is in the form of a relaxation of peak-time restrictions, and recognises the larger number of leisure customers travelling to and from Lancaster and other destinations north of Preston. Like all other train operators, Virgin Trains charges more during peak periods in and out of London in recognition of the high demand for travel during these periods. Customers can take advantage of lower fares if they are flexible over their travel time or route.”