The flagship cross-country rail network is to get a new opereator after the Government decided to dump Virgin Trains in favour of Arriva.

Virgin is the latest big name casualty of the rail franchise shake-up that will see key services, such as the Penzance to Aberdeen network that criss-crosses the UK, services in the West Midlands and those run by Silverlink switch to new operators by the end of the year.

The changes signal the Government’s desire to breathe new life into rail services. But, more worryingly for passengers, it is also likely to lead to significant fare increases once the new operators take over. In the case of the Virgin Trains franchise, predictions are that off-peak tickets could rise by up to 60%.

The Government maintains the increases will help pay for new carriages and extra seats.

However, the big question is whether passengers will be prepared to stump up extra money if punctuality and efficiency doesn’t improve at the same rate as standards of on-board comfort?

At a time when the public is being urged to look for greener modes of transport and to consider rail ahead of short-haul domestic flights, a major price hike will do little to persuade people to allow the train to take the strain.

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