Virgin will not compete with rival Eurostar

VIRGIN Trains has denied suggestions it may launch rival services against Eurostar on the new high-speed line from London to continental Europe.

Eurotunnel last week reportedly said Virgin was among those companies who could start running trains from the capital to European cities such as Paris, Brussels and Cologne.

German state railway Deutsche Bahn (DB) already plans services from London to Amsterdam and Frankfurt in 2012 or 2013 to compete with Eurostar, cashing in on new European Union rules opening up national railways to rival operators.

Virgin has considered running international services, but decided against it on commercial and operational grounds. A Virgin spokesman said the market was not big enough to share with Eurostar, which carried 9.2m passengers in 2009.

The spokesman said Virgin, which carries about 28m passengers a year on its West Coast route from London to Manchester and Glasgow, wanted to focus on renewing that franchise.

He said Virgin would also have to buy new high-speed trains that comply with Channel Tunnel safety rules, recruit enough multi-lingual staff and provide immigration facilities.

“We never say never, but we have looked at it in the past and it’s not a priority for us,” the spokesman said.

Eurostar has responded to DB’s plans by unveiling its own expansion, including a £700m scheme to buy 10 new trains from German manufacturer Siemens and to refurbish its existing rolling stock, which was built by the French group Alstom.

Alstom yesterday launched High Court legal action against Eurostar, claiming the Siemens trains fail to meet Channel Tunnel safety regulations.

Eurostar rejected the claims, saying the competition tender for the trains met European rules and that it chose Siemens because it made the best offer.