Talks are taking place to make Birmingham International railway station a magnet for NEC concert-goers from London and South East executives seeking early flights.
Virgin Trains is holding discussions with bosses at the NEC and Birmingham Airport over the prospect of additional early and late trains between Birmingham International and London Euston.
If the discussions come to fruition, Birmingham International – just one hour and 10 minutes from Euston – could become a more popular destination for the capital’s concert-goers or business travellers seeking early flights.
The talks with the NEC and Birmingham Airport were revealed as Virgin said the award of the franchise to operate the West Coast Main Line to March 2017 would ensure a new period of investment and growth by the Birmingham-headquartered rail company.
Virgin Trains lead executive Phil Whittingham said: “In terms of opportunities for Birmingham, we are now in talks with the NEC. They have got the casino and Resorts World opening, and we are in discussions with them about how we can facilitate that, how we can get them to and from the airport, and later from events.
“We are talking about everything – they have got the LG Arena, the conference centre. If people are coming up from London, it is a great opportunity for us. The road experience around there is pretty poor.
“The airport wants trains arriving at 5.30am from London and the NEC wants trains later at night, with concerts finishing at 10.30pm.
“In the morning, the 6.20am from Euston gets in at 7.33am. It is popular, but is too late for business people who want to get a flight at 7am to Edinburgh or Amsterdam. We are in discussions, and we would be foolish to overlook this opportunity, but we have not done the business case yet, we have not got the paths from Network Rail. It is our aspiration, but I am not going to guarantee that we can deliver that.”
Mr Whittingham said the award of the West Coast Main Line franchise until March 2017 had ended a period of uncertainty after Virgin had originally lost out in late 2012 to FirstGroup in the tender bid. The decision was later reversed by the Department for Transport due to errors in the bidding process.
“This puts behind us a difficult time and give us a solid foundation to go forward and make investments. It is about getting that sparkle back, it is about doing what Virgin does best in terms of customer experience,” he said.