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Virgin Trains (Hardback)

A Pictorial Tribute

Colour Books Photographic Books Transport > Trains & Railways

By Fred Kerr
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 128
Illustrations: 250 colour & black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526793317
Published: 8th June 2022



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When British Railways (BR) was privatised in April 1994 a series of passenger franchises was created that included services on both the East Coast Main Line (ECML) and competing West Coast Main Line (WCML) routes.

The WCML franchise was won by Virgin Trains and it quickly set about improving service by introducing a range of standard trainsets to replace the variety of traction fleets that it had inherited. It also became a constant critic of Government policy which promised much but offered little as the company found itself battling to establish the standards of service that it had promised within its franchise agreement but found other bodies within the industry reluctant to support.

Fred Kerr lives at Southport hence his nearness to the WCML and his book seeks to illustrate the period of changes that Virgin Trains initiated from the immediate application of a startling livery to the introduction of new trainsets and the problems of establishing a new timetable to make the most of the new trainsets.

The operation of the WCML franchise identified problems with both the nature and structure of the franchise system which were exemplified when the company finally managed to win the ECML franchise although it surrendered the latter when major problems were identified by the company.

The company subsequently lost the WCML franchise and hence its involvement with train operations within the United Kingdom and Fred Kerr’s book seeks to explain the history of Virgin Trains involvement in train operations through a comprehensive collection of photographs showing the traction fleet that it inherited and the new fleets it introduced to service.

As featured on Donna's Book Blog

Donna's Book Blog

The book is useful as a record of what one major part of the privatised railway looked like in its heyday, and the photography - almost all by the author himself - is competent. He is to be commended for catching some unusual workings and including some interesting night scenes. The production is to a high standard, making the book a worthy gift, for example, for an ex-VRG employee.

The Railway Correspondence and Travel Society, The Railway Observer - March 2023

Virgin Trains (VT) dominated the West Coast main line route from 1996 to 2019 and Cross Country services until 2007. This book presents a colourful tribute to VT across the West Coast, Cross Country and the ill-fated East Coast franchises. HSTs, ‘47s’, ‘57s’, various AC electrics, plus ‘Pendolinos’ and ‘Voyagers. The scruffy Class 158s on Manchester Airport services aren’t overlooked. The book contains plenty of information on trains and operations.

Model Rail Magazine

Review as featured in

Railways Illustrated

About Fred Kerr

Fred Kerr is a photographer whose lifelong interest in railways began in Edinburgh during the early 1950s and has continued throughout his life since. His family move to Northamptonshire in 1956 introduced him to the Midland Main Line where the transition from steam to diesel traction became important as Derby Works reflected the change with new locomotives being tested and introduced to service. His early ventures into photography began in 1961 but became established during his University years in the early 1970s. Taking early retirement in 1994 he has spent time working for Colin Garratt, a muse whose inspiration provided opportunities to photograph railway scenes that have proved to be historic as the railway undergoes changes in both its structures and operations.

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