Train firm launches services tailored for Sunderland and Newcastle football fans

Sunderland AFC supporter Cath Reid, Newcastle-based Virgin Trains East Coast Guard Jeff Grey, Newcastle United supporter Thomas Concannon, Inspector Brian Buddo, of British Transport Police and Sgt Neil Pacey, of Northumbria Police's Football Co-ordination Unit.
Sunderland AFC supporter Cath Reid, Newcastle-based Virgin Trains East Coast Guard Jeff Grey, Newcastle United supporter Thomas Concannon, Inspector Brian Buddo, of British Transport Police and Sgt Neil Pacey, of Northumbria Police's Football Co-ordination Unit.

A pilot will kick off to help football crowds use trains which are safer, cheaper and more flexible on match days.

Supporters’ groups teamed up with Virgin Trains East Coast, Newcastle United and Sunderland and the British Transport Police to set up an exclusive web page offering discounts and booking to those who are registered with their club.

We know the majority of football fans are well behaved and a credit to their clubs, and this scheme rewards those who travel responsibly.

Inspector Brian Buddo, of British Transport Police

Savings can include:

•10% off already discounted advance fares

•25% off Virgin Trains East Coast group bookings for between three and nine fans travelling together

•A free change to a new date or train if an away fixture is moved for TV scheduling reasons, which will apply to Virgin Trains East Coast tickets and trains only.

•More minutes added to catch a return train if the match goes to extra time

Alison Watson, customer experience director at Virgin Trains East Coast, said: “Our pilot discount scheme has been put together in consultation with fans of both Newcastle United and Sunderland, with the full backing of both clubs, the Football Supporters’ Federation and the British Transport Police.

“We’re offering exciting discounts for individuals and groups of supporters travelling together – and the opportunity to change a booked journey with us to a new date or train if an away fixture is rescheduled for TV coverage.

“We know there are many football fans who loyally follow their teams all over the country – this is a trial initiative, working with all our partners to promote safe travel by train. If this pilot proves successful, we will look at extending it to supporters following other clubs on our route.”

The pilot scheme is being welcomed by the Football Supporters Federation (FSF).

Rick Duniec, FSF National Council member, said: “This is something we’ve been suggesting for a number of years, and we’re delighted that Virgin Trains East Coast has developed this in partnership with Newcastle United and Sunderland fans.

“In the past, supporters have missed out on cheapest advance-booked fares as late changes to accommodate live TV coverage can leave them out of pocket if they booked before the fixture was moved.

“This is now being addressed, and it’s our job now to encourage Newcastle United and Sunderland supporters with a club membership number to take advantage of this brilliant improvement.”

Inspector Brian Buddo, of British Transport Police, said: “We know the majority of football fans are well behaved and a credit to their clubs, and this scheme rewards those who travel responsibly.

“Both BTP and Northumbria Police are committed to working with train companies and football clubs to further promote responsible travel and, during the coming season, we will continue to develop the strong community ties and relationships which have been developed.”

Lee Marshall, PR and supporter liaison manager at Newcastle United, said: “Alongside British Transport Police, Virgin Trains East Coast deserve huge credit for their proactive approach to working with our supporters. They have taken time to consider the hurdles people face when travelling to matches and they have worked closely with fans and the clubs to overcome them.”

Chris Waters, Supporter Liaison Officer at Sunderland AFC, said: “Hopefully the trial period will prove to be a great success and we can look to extend it in the future to benefit as many fans as possible.”