Is Sir Richard Branson plotting to launch a Eurostar rival? Billionaire rumoured to be planning a return to the railways with train operation between London and the Continent
- Former Virgin Trains boss Phil Whittingham is reportedly overseeing the plan
- Eurostar has had a monopoly on cross-Channel services since 1994
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Sir Richard Branson is rumoured to be plotting the launch of a rival train service to Eurostar.
It has been reported that his former Virgin Trains boss, Phil Whittingham, is overseeing the plan.
According to The Telegraph, he has been in talks with infrastructure officials to discuss prospective routes between London St Pancras and the Continent.
Sir Richard Branson is rumoured to be plotting the launch of a rival train service to Eurostar
It has been reported that former Virgin Trains boss Phil Whittingham is overseeing Sir Richard’s return to the railways
Phil Whittingham became managing director of Virgin Trains in January 2015 and was made MD of its successor, Avanti West Coast, in December 2019.
He left last year amid furore over Avanti’s punctuality record.
Eurostar is the only company that has run passenger trains between London and the Continent since the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994.
Other proposed rival operators have been unable to overcome regulatory hurdles.
Eurostar, which runs services to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, said it aims to carry 30million passengers a year by 2030 and ‘become the benchmark for sustainable travel in Europe’.
The Richard Branson rumours follow news that company Evolyn has agreed to purchase 12 trains as a part of a bid to start cross-Channel rail services in 2025.
Eurostar is the only company that has run passenger trains between London and the Continent since the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994
The company said it is led by the Spanish Cosmen family – an investor in coach and train company Mobico, formerly known as National Express – and is backed by ‘important British and French industrial and financial partners’.
It said it had reached an agreement to acquire 12 trains from French manufacturer Alstom, with an ‘option to scale up to 16’.
Evolyn chief executive Jorge Cosmen said: ‘The acquisition of 12 high-speed, state-of-the-art trains, to be expanded to a minimum of 16 according to our forecasts, is the definitive step in the materialisation of Evolyn, a high-speed rail operator that has been under development for three years.’
Virgin told MailOnline Travel: ‘Virgin doesn’t comment on rumour or speculation.’
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