AN INCREASE in passengers using Virgin Voyager Trains between London and Chester has led to a 150,000 visitor increase and £17m shot in the arm for the Cheshire economy.
Figures released by Visit Chester and Cheshire at a press conference held jointly with Virgin Trains management and Queen Hotel showed that the city of Chester had been given a massive public transport boost.
Chris Brown, chief executive of VCC, who secured an agreement with Virgin Trains four years ago, hailed the partnership a success.
He said: “A fast and effective transport service sends a compelling message for anyone wanting to come to Chester. It is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the opportunities available and shows the huge economic and visitor impact that good transport has on a destination.
“We are getting record numbers into the city.”
Chris Gibb, chief operating officer of Virgin Trains, said Virgin Trains were chomping at the bit to invest in and maintain much improved car parking around the station and work closely with Network Rail and Arriva Trains Wales to improve the network and image of Chester’s Station.
Mr Gibb said: “I’m delighted and surprised by how quickly the relationship with VCC has borne fruit.
“Chester has established itself as one of the main destinations on the West Coast main line. It is up on York and Bath.”
Chester’s role has changed in a subtle way. It is now the railhead for a significant portion of North Wales as well as Cheshire.
Statistics show Chester has topped Manchester and Liverpool in terms of year-on-year passenger increase.
Virgin Trains are looking to extend their franchise agreement of the West Coast line and are to market the ‘huge potential of Chester’ in terms of passengers from Milton Keynes and the South East as well as long haul tourists using Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Pacific
Stuart Hunter, managing director of The Feathers Group which owns Chester’s Queen Hotel, announced that the Virgin Train service had helped him secure a lucrative contract for 5,000 American visitors to Chester in 2011.
He said: “This [Virgin Trains] has been a major boost for The Feathers Group and I am sure I can speak on behalf of other hoteliers in the city and say it has been a wonderful boost for them too.”
Mr Hunter made a compelling case for a proper conference/convention centre for the city of Chester to tap into the lucrative international business tourism market.