I had a very pleasant letter this week from those nice folks at Virgin. You’ll recall my outrage expressed on these pages a few weeks back following a terrible journey on Virgin Trains between Lancaster and London. The journey was terminated at Crewe because of an incident further north on the line, and passengers were asked to find other ways of going north. The journey, which I was making with my three year old daughter, was over three hours late in getting to my destination, and went via Manchester. It entailed a round trip of seventy miles for my father, who had to pick me up from Preston when it was clearly evident that Virgin didn’t have a plan for getting people north of that point with the time approaching midnight.
The letter I now have is empathetic to our situation and understands our frustrations. It expresses regret and apology. The letter explains that the line that evening was blocked by the police, who were investigating an incident involving a person with a young child close to the railway line, and that Network Rail were asked to turn off the overhead wires. The cause was outside of the control of Virgin, which I’d understood, and the letter expresses how Virgin sought to keep disruption to a minimum. The letter acknowledges that the information available to me on the night was not up to scratch and that this was a failure on their part.
In acknowledging this, and seeking to win back some good will, Virgin reimbursed the full cost of the ticket and the expense incurred in buying food in Manchester by way of a cheque. They have also offered £30 in rail vouchers to in some way compensate the fuel costs and inconvenience suffered by my father.
This has certainly met, if not exceeded, my expectations of the complaints I made after that night, not least because of the manner in which the letter has been written, and I will be offering my thanks to the writer of the letter.
In the original blog post, I did mention a planned journey by Virgin Trains the following week, and this passed off without incident. Whilst I have occasionally been unlucky on the route, most journeys are trouble free. That’s not to say that my views on the comfort and space provided by the Pendolino trains don’t remain, and every journey with them is compromised by this. I also remain of the view that the network would be better run as a single organisation rather than a fragmented one, whether this be in the public or private sector. But I’ll put the bigger picture to one side for the moment and celebrate good customer service and a small victory for both sides.