CROSS-BORDER rail travel is seeing a surge in popularity following investment in additional capacity, new figures show.


Virgin Trains saw an 11 per cent increase in passenger numbers on its Anglo-Scottish services last year after increasing the number of seats available by 3000 every weekday.

More than three times the number of people travelled between London and Glasgow in 2014 than five years earlier with a record 600,000 rail journeys between Glasgow and London Euston on Virgin's West Coast Main Line service last year. Meanwhile Edinburgh-Birmingham journeys more than doubled over the same period.

The surge means that more people are choosing rail over domestic air travel than ever before - although the actual number of passengers flying between Glasgow and London is still around fourfold higher.

One in five passengers travelling between Glasgow and London now make the journey on a Virgin train, significantly up on 2008 when fewer than one in 10 journeys were made by train.

Virgin's market share is also increasing on the Edinburgh-Birmingham corridor, which saw passenger numbers increase by around a third last year.

However, the number of people travelling to Glasgow to London by plane also increased in 2014.

A spokesman for Glasgow airport said: "Almost 2.3 million (2,270,581) people flew between Glasgow and the five London airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, London City and Luton) in 2014.

"That was an increase of 1.1 per cent on the previous year and with Ryanair having added flights to Stansted we will have additional capacity in 2015. Flying remains the most convenient, reliable and cost effective way to travel between Scotland and London."

Glasgow is also seeing a boom in English visitors driven by the lure of the city's burgeoning image as a retail destination, with Virgin reaping the benefits.

The rail company ran a joint marketing promotion with Glasgow City Marketing Bureau (GCMB) 12 months ago which saw thousands of families in Carlisle take advantage of a cheap day return 'shopper ticket' to travel to Glasgow.

Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, said: "The north of England is one of our key visitor markets and, as the success of this joint promotion shows, flexible, affordable rail travel together with a compelling destination offering is a winning combination for Glasgow."

The growth has also been welcomed by Scotland's Transport Minister Derek Mackay.

He said: "Scotland is currently embracing the railway more than at any time since the Victorian era and these new figures from Virgin Trains exemplify this new golden age of train travel."

Gary Iddon, Virgin Trains' General Manager for Anglo-Scottish services, added: "These figures are a fantastic endorsement of the work we've done on the route."