Virgin Trains met key stakeholders this week to discuss the future development of Virgin Trains links into Chester, Cheshire and North Wales.
Held at ABode Chester on Wednesday, the meeting attracted senior representatives of over thirty organisations including Virgin Trains’ Chief Operating Officer, Chris Gibb.
The event was jointly hosted by Visit Chester & Cheshire (VCC) and the Cheshire & Warrington Enterprise Commission (the economic development partnership for Cheshire and Warrington). During the presentations, VCC Chief Executive Chris Brown emphasised the vital role of improving rail links to the future success of the visitor economy.
Chris Gibb highlighted the major improvements that had been introduced in the frequency and quality of services between North Wales, Chester and the South of England. He also underlined the importance of building on current partnerships with the business community, tourism interests and regional organisations in order to develop a sustainable rail service to meet local needs.
Cheshire and Warrington Enterprise Commission Managing Director Aidan Manley commented: “This has been a superb opportunity to review services and explore our needs and aspirations for a rail service that will help achieve our economic objectives going forward.”
During the event, Virgin Trains also revealed the full extent of the role of Visit Chester & Cheshire in Virgin’s decision to almost treble the frequency of its London rail service from five to 14 trains a day, and introduce its fastest ever service – London to Chester in less than two hours.
‘Tenacious, highly-motivated and groundbreaking’ is how Virgin Trains Director, Communications, Arthur Leathley summarises VCC’s lengthy courtship of Virgin Trains.
“They first came to us four years ago when we were preoccupied with track improvements that left no space for us to consider developing specific markets.
“However, Chris Brown and his team kept knocking on the door, and when Virgin Trains finally started looking for partnerships to help build leisure travel, VCC was ready, and we had the bones of a relationship already in place to build on.”
Arthur continued: “Their forward-looking approach has enabled Chester and Cheshire’s extensive services, attractions and experiences to be opened up to millions of people across the South East, and in London, Milton Keynes and the Midlands who now find themselves within easy reach thanks to fast, frequent and affordable train services.”
A joint short breaks promotion campaign to promote the new train-links, which ran from May to September 2009, delivered an economic impact of £17.9 million and reached 12 million people. The target for this year is to exploit these links and further boost the Chester and Cheshire visitor economy.
Arthur continued: “It was the first relationship of its kind between Virgin Trains and a tourism organisation and one we’d certainly be looking to replicate with other areas such as Cumbria and Glasgow.”
He revealed Virgin Trains’ decision to stage the company’s annual staff awards evening at Carden Park Hotel Golf Resort & Spa in Cheshire, on the 24th of June, for the first time after being held in the Midlands for the last four years.
Chris Brown commented: “The success we’ve achieved to date working with Virgin Trains illustrates how effective partnership working can deliver massive economic benefits to a region.”
Below: Managing Director of Feathers Hotel Group Stuart Hunter, Chief Operating Officer of Virgin Trains Chris Gibb, Driver Gary Ormiston of Virgin trains and Chief Executive of Visit Chester & Cheshire Chris Brown
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