Virgin CrossCountry has said he believes the operator will win the New Cross Country rail franchise. He made the claim yesterday, after the Government started its consultation on future rail services in the Derby region.

Virgin CC may have a fight on its hands, as rivals GNER, National Express, First and Arriva are also thought to be lining up for the business. The shake-up of rail services through Derby has been driven by plans to shut down the existing Central Trains franchise and split its routes between three operators from November next year.

Virgin Trains production director Phil Bearpark, was Derby yesterday for a meeting with 58 drivers and two managers based in the city, he told said: “We are very positive about the future and are confident we can win the franchise.” He told local reporters: “New routes for Cross Country would include Cardiff-Nottingham, Birmingham-Nottingham and Birmingham-Stansted Airport.”

Since taking over the franchise in 1997, Virgin CrossCountry has seen passenger numbers almost double from 12 million to over 20 million a year and is currently enjoying its best-ever reliability and punctuality levels.

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