In Britain, Virgin Train Says Rail Is Taking Passengers from Airlines

VIRGIN Trains claims it is luring Anglo-Scottish air passengers to rail as it announces a major increase in traffic on its main cross-Border route.

Tony Collins, chief executive, said passenger numbers on Glasgow-London trains had soared by 55 per cent in the year to October - or tens of thousands.

The train operator admitted it had only anecdotal evidence of a switch from plane to train, but said air passengers between the cities were declining and flights were less punctual than trains.

BAA Scotland, which runs Glasgow and Edinburgh airports, admitted the trend for the first time last year.

Virgin predicts the beginnings of a similar trend to that experienced on its Manchester-London route, where the 40/60 per cent rail/air split has been reversed.

Virgin's passenger growth is twice the overall increase it reported for Anglo-Scottish passengers last summer on the back of new, faster and more reliable trains. The operator's network stretches from Aberdeen to south-west England.

Virgin hopes to further capitalise from more frequent trains and further cuts in journey times between Glasgow and London at the end of next year.

The fastest trips will be cut by nine minutes to four hours, 15 minutes, but Virgin wants to reduce this to three hours, 45 minutes to compete with airlines.

Mr Collins will tell a conference in Edinburgh today: "Centre to centre, in terms of time there will not be much in it between air and rail, but with rail offering better value and being more reliable and environmentally friendly."