After 22 years of running the express passenger service on the West Coast main line, and off it to other destinations such as North Wales, Virgin Trains has finally had to call it a day.
Denied the chance to renew its franchise when part-owner Stagecoach was disqualified from bidding due to not accepting the government’s railway pension ‘black hole’ without limitations, the team at Virgin Trains had no option but to bow out gracefully.
One of its last actions was to remove the nameplates from the side of its trains and auction them off for charity.
The most recent auction raised £50,000, which, added to the proceeds of sales earlier in the year, brought the total fund to over £130,000.
Bidders at the auction included enthusiasts and also Virgin Trains employees wanting memories of their time with the popular train operator. The amount raised varied with the name on the plate, with £500 seemingly being a minimum and ‘City of Birmingham’ going for over £4,000.
The plates came off the sides of both Pendolino and Super Voyager trains. Many had been on there through three million miles of service at speeds of up to 125mph.
Using the proceeds of the auctions, Virgin Trains has made a series of donations charities across the United Kingdom, from London to Manchester, Birmingham to Scotland.
One the recipients is the Whitechapel Centre, a homeless and housing charity for the Liverpool region. Fundraising manager Ruth McCaughley said: “Virgin Trains have supported us in a range of ways over the years, from donations to our centre, to book swaps and taking part in fundraising events.
“As we enter the winter the need for our services grows and this additional support from Virgin Trains is a wonderful final gesture. We are incredibly grateful for their support and we are going to really miss them.”
Another recipient was the New Leaf Initiative in Birmingham – a charity that helps ex-offenders find work. Founder Marie-Claire O’Brien said: “Virgin Trains have been so supportive. They’ve willingly given their time to help with training and interview skills, and also offered employment to a number of our people. This final donation speaks volumes. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!”
It was both a good deed, helping local charities, and a sad moment as the franchise came to an end. Jo Buckley, Virgin Trains’ community manager, commented: “We wanted to find some good homes for our nameplates. We’ve been blown away by the response and delighted to be in a position to support some fantastic causes in our local communities.
“It’s been a wonderful 22 years transforming services on the west coast and we’re proud of everything our people have achieved in that time. But it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our customers, and this is just our small way of saying thank you.”