I had finally done it. Six weeks ago I started my very first full time paid job in London. The trouble was, like most young people, I wasn't in the position to move to the city straight away. So, I made the decision to accept the job and commute daily from Birmingham until I was in a better position to move. The decision to commute was based in part on the exclusive Virgin Trains offer for all holders of a 16-25, disabled persons or senior railcard, the ability to travel with on peak time trains for off-peak prices. My daily commute between Birmingham New Street and London Euston would cost me £34.15. My decision was made.
On my journey home two weeks ago, a Virgin employee at London Euston asked me whether I knew that the ticket I was travelling on wouldn't be available after 6th September 2015. I looked at him and nodded, maybe I hadn't heard him correctly. This was the first time anyone had bothered to mention this change to me and I interact with multiple Virgin train staff daily.
I boarded the train in a state of confusion and began furiously searching the internet and social media for any mention of this change in railcard policy. I found nothing on this subject, from the very company that states it is dedicated to being 'upfront' and 'straight up' with its customers. I contacted Virgin Trains via twitter to check whether what I had been told was correct, given that there was no mention of this anywhere, their website or social media.
Sure enough, my worst nightmare was confirmed, that there would be a 'shift' in Virgin's policy on the use of railcards. My £34.15 ticket would from the 6th September 2015, cost me £110. This is a service I might add that doesn't quite match its price tag.
Funnily enough, whilst tweeting Virgin about this very issue, I was on a delayed service back to Birmingham. This is a regular occurrence. In the past month I have managed to claw back over £130 from travelling on the West Coast train line that is riddled with late, delayed and cancelled services...the list goes on. Sometimes I wonder what customer money is spent on when I think back at the amount of times the train manager has had to make apologetic announcements to inform those on board that the train driver failed to turn up, the crew had been delayed, or there simply weren't enough staff or facilities to operate the on-board shop.
Coincidentally, Timehop took the opportune moment to remind me that it has been 3 years to the day that I was supporting Virgin's campaign against the government's plans for the West Coast service, after it was announced that they had lost control of the rail line they had run for 15 years. I, like many others, campaigned tirelessly to question the government's bidding process and were, I feel, in part responsible for the success of Virgin regaining control of the franchise. It wasn't a perfect service, but it was the best we had.
Since then, we have been repaid with an increasingly appalling service, which continues to take a nose dive, with a complete lack of commitment to their paying customers, a stark contrast to a once reliable service. This, in addition to the silent removal of 'exclusive' perks of being a Virgin customer, a contradiction I think you would agree to the 'heart felt' service Virgin requests of any potential employees on application.
So, this 'shift' in policy has been explained as being 'in line' with other train providers out there, the company that claims to 'give a damn,' Virgin, is now conforming to the majority because it no longer believes it is 'sustainable.' I don't know about you, but I can't quite believe that providing the opportunity for young, old and disabled with travel at a more affordable price will bring about the demise of the Mr Branson's empire, the very company that states 'what is good for profit, can be good for people.'