Virgin TrainsVirgin Trains is a train operating company, part of Richard Branson's Virgin empire. The company was formed after the privatisation of British Rail in the mid 1990s.
The company successfully bid for the franchise to run express train services on the West coast Mainline. This part of the company is called Virgin West coast. It also bid for a separate franchise to run most of the U.K's cross country rail services (which generally means long distance services not operating to or from London). This part is called Virgin Cross-country.
Since taking over these franchises Virgin trains have invested heavily in new state of the art tilting trains for the west coast mainline. And modern diesel "Voyager" trains for the cross-country services, to replace the ageing fleet of trains they inherited from British rail.
Virgin Trains have a poor reputation for punctuality compared with many other transport operators. This perception seems to be a mixture of truth and media exaggeration. During the year ending December 31 2002, 62.5% of Cross-Country trains and 73.6% of West Coast trains arrived within 10 minutes of the scheduled arrival time (source SRA National Rail Trends). These figures compare unfavourably with most airlines but are not greatly worse than other long-distance UK rail operators. Given Richard Branson's popularity with the British public and the success of his other business ventures, the perceived failure of Virgin Trains is unusual.