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  1. ITV Report

Virgin Trains calls for airline-style fares to stop standing and overcrowding

Credit: PA

Virgin Trains has called for a new national rail ticketing system with airline-style fares and reserved seats for every passenger on long distance services.

The West Coast mainline train operator wants the “turn up and go” principle to be scrapped in favour of compulsory reservations and a strict limit on passenger numbers.

Standing on trains would be cut out through a reservation-only system which guaranteed every customer a seat in normal operations. Tickets would be replaced with one fare available at any given time for any one service.

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Virgin said it's submitting the proposals to the government-commissioned Williams review into the rail system, which was launched in September to consider reforms that would better serve train customers and taxpayers.

Rail union RMT today warned of total chaos on the railways, 'that would effectively allow private operators to bid route by route, slot by slot for the most lucrative chunks of the network.'

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Virgin said its plans would improve customer experience by abolishing overcrowding and ending complex ticketing.

The plans were drawn up before Virgin was disqualified earlier this month from bidding for franchises - including running the West Coast mainline service that it has run since 1997 – from London to Glasgow via Birmingham and Manchester – after 2020.

This will not be an easy fix. Every option will have downsides and there will be some difficult decisions to be made. But there should be no dogmatic fixation on models or ownership. Instead, we must develop a system which optimises the benefits for passengers, taxpayers and communities and which enables train companies to evolve as the world evolves around them. We must be both visionary and pragmatic."

– Patrick McCall, Senior Partner, Virgin Group