New accelerator programme Platform-X seeks innovators to help revolutionise train travel

London, 2017-May-31 — /Travel PR News/ — Sir Richard Branson is looking for the very best disruptive innovators to help transform the future of the railway with a new business accelerator programme – Platform-X. A joint venture between Virgin Trains on the East Coast and Virgin StartUp, Platform-X is designed to find the next generation of start-up firms who could help to revolutionise train travel.

The two Virgin companies have teamed up to identify and inspire start-ups with a series of four real innovation challenges to win the chance to take part in Platform-X. Those who are successful will benefit from access to funding for in market trials through the £25M Virgin Trains East Coast Innovation Fund as well as mentoring from the Senior Management Team at Virgin Trains on the East Coast, who will be able to help develop go-to-market strategies.

Start-ups are invited to apply via with their ideas of a product or service that will tackle one of four challenges:

  • Ensuring customers have a great end-to-end journey to and from the train and beyond
  • Help Virgin Trains understand more about their customers and what makes them tick
  • How innovation can help Virgin Trains tackle operational challenges when disruption hits
  • How ideas that are already transforming the lives of customers could be applied to the rail industry

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder said: “Business is at its best when it’s pushing boundaries and disrupting the status quo. I’m proud to see both Virgin StartUp and Virgin Trains coming together with the ambition to change the face of rail travel for those up and down the east coast. We are all capable of innovating, and should be encouraged to do so whenever possible. Even the most simple ideas can revolutionise standards, I’m excited to see what solutions are put forward to our teams. Good luck everybody!”

Nicola McGuiness-Brown, Head of the Innovation Fund at Virgin Trains on the east coast said “As a Virgin company we are here to disrupt the industry and we need entrepreneurs across the UK to help. Platform-X gives us a great opportunity to invite ideas from technologists and start-ups about how we could transform rail journeys in the future and in return provides them with the opportunity to grow and scale their business. We’re really excited about hearing from the brightest and best innovators about how we can do things differently, and we hope we can help take some of these start-ups with us on a journey that will help make their ideas become reality”.

Speaking about Virgin StartUp’s involvement in the project, Mei Shui, Managing Director said “Virgin has a history of empowering and supporting those looking to create positive disruptive change. The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree where Virgin StartUp is concerned; we’ve so far supported over 1800 entrepreneurs and from our experience this community is one of the most vibrant in the business world.”

The deadline for entries is Monday 11th June and those shortlisted will be invited to pitch their ideas on 21st June to secure their place on the programme, which starts on 3rd July. Selected start-ups will be invited to test their ideas with in-market trials, which could pave the way fora future partnership with Virgin Trains.

Notes to editors:

For more information on PlatformX visit

About Platform X

The four challenge areas are:

Challenge 1: Improving the “End-to-End” journeys of passengers – Providing solutions that will transform the rail journeys of Virgin Trains customers; improving the travelling experience from start to finish.

Challenge 2: Getting passengers “All On Board” the digital grid – Providing solutions that can help Virgin Trains grow its passenger database, improve online customers experience and increase all aspects of customer engagement;

Challenge 3: Improving the “Behind the Scenes” decision making processes – Including the way Virgin Trains manage disruption and communications with staff, providing solutions that can transform internal processes, drive operational efficiency and improve the customer experience; and

Challenge 4: “Wildcard” entries – From existing solutions that are transforming the customer experience and novel innovations that could be applied to the rail industry.

Entrants will be judged on a number of areas including:

-Quality of concept: how does it address key challenges in the rail industry?

-Commercial potential: how much demand is there for this product or service?

-Impact on Virgin Trains: the impact this could have on solving challenges specific to Virgin Trains and improving its offering to customers

-Adaptability: how quickly would the team be able to integrate their solution into Virgin trains business?

-Current team structure: what experience does the team have which will help them in the delivery of this project.

-Suitability for the programme: what benefits the entrant would get out of participating in the programme and partnering with Virgin Trains?

About Virgin StartUp:

Virgin StartUp is the not-for-profit entrepreneurial hub of the Virgin Group.Virgin StartUp provide business advice, funding and mentoring to start-ups across the UK. Launched in 2013, Virgin StartUp has delivered more than £20m in funding to thousands of entrepreneurs and provided a platform through which Virgin can share its experience of starting new businesses.

Virgin StartUp distributes government-backed Start Up Loans ranging from £500 – £25,000 to entrepreneurs launching or growing a business that’s under two-years-old in England or Scotland, every entrepreneur who receives a Start Up Loan through Virgin StartUp is matched with their own mentor.

For more information, please go to

About Virgin Trains:

Stagecoach and Virgin are working in partnership to operate the East Coast and West Coast inter-city routes under the Virgin Trains brand. Together, they are on track to revolutionise rail travel across the UK.

The combined network connects some of the nation’s most iconic destinations including Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, York and London.

Virgin Trains is committed to delivering a high speed, high frequency service, offering shorter journey times, more comfortable travel and excellent customer service. Customers consistently rate Virgin Trains as one of the top long-distance rail franchise operators in the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) commissioned by industry watchdog, Transport Focus.

On the East Coast route, £140m is being invested to create a more personalised travel experience. We have already invested £21m to completely revamp our existing fleet and customers can now benefit from 42 additional services (22,000 extra seats) per week between Edinburgh and London. 2018 will see the introduction of completely new Azuma trains being built in the UK by Hitachi.

The West Coast route has a proud record of challenging the status quo – from introducing tilting Pendolino trains, to a pioneering automated delay repay scheme and becoming the first franchised rail operator to offer m-Tickets for all ticket types.

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0845 000 3333.

Source: Virgin Trains