Virgin makes a move into rides and brides

The Virgin Group is pledging to create a new standard of on-board design for rail travel. It is vowing to bring the best of air travel design to mix with the best of rail design for the CrossCountry rail franchise it won at the weekend.

The awarding of the rail franchise comes as the Virgin Group continues its expansion with the opening of the first Virgin Bride one-stop wedding shop.

The rail franchise will be renamed Virgin Rail, although long-term decisions on branding and identity have yet to be taken. FM Design has done some provisional work on branding and ideas for the refurbishment of the existing rolling stock.

One of the conditions for winning the franchise was to introduce new rolling stock, says a Virgin spokesman. Some 250m is to be invested in new trains to be brought on-line between 2000 and 2004. What rolling stock to buy and how to fit it out will be looked at shortly, says the spokesman.

Before the new trains are in use, Virgin Rail will use existing InterCity 125 trains which it will refurbish with some of its travel ideas. The spokesman says: “We are not prepared to put the Virgin brand on rolling stock unless we are happy with the quality.”

FM Design’s chances of following through the refurbishment work will be clearer after Virgin has consulted CrossCountry’s existing management about the January handover.

Meanwhile, Virgin Bride opened this week on London’s Northumberland Avenue, aiming to supply all nuptial needs. Interiors are by Morey Smith and graphics are by Design Clinic.

Morey Smith’s design director Frans Burrows says the two-level store is designed for customers to be met by a consultant who travels with them around the various sectors – such as dresses, flowers, and honeymoons. Burrows expects Virgin to open more such stores: “If it’s a success, I can’t see Virgin holding back.”

Design Clinic also handled the corporate stationery, signage, brochure, promotional material and press ads for the store. Chief graphic designer on the project was John Wainwright.

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