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Virgin, W&S, and the fight for London to Shrewsbury and Wrexham

Ladies and gentleman, in the public rail sector, a fight!,

In one corner Virgin Trains, a Goliath of the British transport industry, and in the other, David - aka Wrexham & Shropshire, a small train company running services between North Wales, the West Midlands and London. And according to The Times Virgin is already throwing its weight around.

It all dates back to 2004 - when Virgin pulled its Shropshire service due to insufficient demand. Fast forward to 2009, and W&S, which stepped in last year to plug the gap, is making a success of it - and Virgin wants back in. Virgin helpfully explains that: We think it provides greater choice throughout the day for the people of Shropshire, but little guy W&S' fears Virgin's cheap advance fares will undercut its business.

And when you consider - cheap advance fares aside - that W&S charges £53 for a standard class any-time return between Wrexham to London, where Virgin charges £201 for a similar journey, it all begins to look a little less altruistic. Not only that, but where W&S - which receives no public subsidies and only just covers its costs - offers flat rate any time travel fares, to qualify for Virgin's cheap fares you have to book them 12 weeks in advance. Oh, and Virgin receives £35 million a year in public subsidies, too. Sounds like a fair fight, doesn't it? Still, at least Virgin knows how to make a really great advert:

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