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Virgin scraps Friday peak fares to end getaway rush

Peak form: A Virgin Trains service PICTURE: PA

VIRGIN Trains has scrapped its Friday afternoon peak restrictions from London Euston to ease overcrowding and let people get away early for weekends.

The huge difference in many peak and off-peak fares — which can be more than £125 for travellers to Manchester — had led to huge demand for the first off-peak service at about 7pm.

This meant passengers standing for hours on their journeys to places such as Liverpool, Birmingham and Holyhead.

But, after a trial to scrap restrictions for Friday afternoons resulted in less congestion, the decision has been made permanent.

During the trial, the first service at 7pm to Manchester saw the proportion of passengers to seats drop from 113 per cent to 51 per cent. The Birmingham train fell from 113 per cent to 39 per cent.

An extra 3,500 journeys were made each Friday during the trial, which began in July, amid an increase in passenger satisfaction. The end of peak fares means return journey savings of up to £115.55 to Liverpool and £111.25 to Glasgow.

Virgin commercial director Sarah Copley said: ‘Rather than everyone waiting for the first off-peak train on Friday evening, people can now travel whenever’s convenient. This change means we’ve been able to reduce congestion, whilst helping people save money and make an earlier start to their weekends.’

Shareholders go sour on Patisserie boss Johnson

Hours from going under: Patisserie Valerie received £20million from Luke Johnson (below) PICTURES: REX

PATISSERIE Valerie chairman Luke Johnson faced anger from shareholders as they gave their backing to a rescue plan for the café chain.

Mr Johnson told investors the company was ‘three hours’ from going bankrupt last month before he swooped in with a rescue package that saw him pledge up to £20million in new loans for the business.

Half the money he loaned will be returned after more than 99 per cent of investors backed the rescue plan to issue £15million worth of shares, diluting their stake in the company. But one shareholder accused the management of ‘holding a gun to our heads’. Another said: ‘Why should the new shareholders benefit from buying shares at a discount?’

Mr Johnson, whose holding was reduced from 37 to 27 per cent, warned that the company ‘risks going into administration’ if the rescue was not approved.

He said he would be reducing other commitments to focus on the chain. Its future was first thrown into question last month after it revealed it had uncovered ‘potentially fraudulent accounting irregularities’.

House price growth lowest in five years

ANNUAL house price growth has slowed to its lowest level since May 2013, records show.

The value of houses across the UK increased by just 1.6 per cent annually last month to an average of £214,534, down from two per cent year-on-year growth in September, said Nationwide Building Society.

House prices stalled between September and October.

Nationwide economist Robert Gardner said ‘the squeeze on household budgets and the uncertain economic outlook is likely to have dampened demand’ but forecast a one per cent rise during next year.

BUSINESS BITES

■ JUST EAT’S full-year performance is set to be dented by investment in fighting off rivals and expansion into Latin America, although revenues are on course to shoot up. The online food service — which will move into delivery to compete with Deliveroo and Uber — expects annual revenues of about £770million and earnings of more than £165million.

■ APPLEDORE shipyard will close next year despite a campaign to win the historic shipbuilder new work. Owner Babcock International said the Devon site’s lease will end next March, affecting 199 staff. The Ministry of Defence offered the firm a £60million contract this week, days after a petition with over 8,000 signatures was sent to Parliament. However, the bid to keep the 163-year-old yard open fell through.

■ ROYAL DUTCH SHELL saw surging oil prices drive profits up 37 per cent in one of its ‘strongest ever quarters’. The energy giant reported underlying earnings of £4.4billion, based on current oil prices, for the three months to September 30. The group will now go ahead with buying back up to £1.9billion of shares.