The franchise consultation for the InterCity West Coast franchise (currently operated by Virgin Trains) is now open. This is the opportunity to have an influence for what goes into the official invitation to tender when the government invites bidders to put forward their proposals later this year.

I'll be discussing over the next couple of weeks with the other contributors to Save East Coast Rewards whether we should issue our own formal response to the consultation and what, if anything, we should do to promote the benefits of a decent rewards and recognition system on the west coast mainline.

When reading the government consultation document I was pleased to see that focus groups organised by Transport Focus has identified 'rewards and recognition' as something that could be improved on the west coast mainline. As it's also specifically mentioned on the consultation questionnaire it has a good chance of being made part of the franchise requirements. We can't guarantee the scheme will be as generous as East Coast Rewards was but as long as it offers proper rail based rewards such as tickets, upgrades and lounge access it'll be an improvement over Nectar which just gives you money off things.

If Virgin retains the west coast franchise it could provide them the opportunity to do a joint scheme with Virgin Trains East Coast (as the new franchise isn't due to start until April 2018 it's likely their initial contract with Nectar has expired by then), if another company wins the franchise and introduces a loyalty scheme hopefully that'd also encourage VTEC to ditch Nectar in order to complete.

What to do?

You have until the 2nd August to respond to the consultation and if you use the west coast I hope you will respond to it. If the other contributors agree we need to push for a loyalty scheme on the west coast. If you want to see what the benefits of a decent loyalty scheme are put your spend into our calculator and see how poor Nectar performs.

The easiest way to feed back is to complete the questionnaire but the consultation document mentions other ways to feed back if you want to go in more detail. Before submitting it think about any other areas of the current franchise you also want to see improved and please mention rewards.

  • Make it clear that you don't see Nectar as an incentive that makes you want to travel
  • If you were a previous East Coast Rewards member mention how it made you feel more valued as a customer
  • If you currently fly to Virgin Trains West Coast destinations and believe rewards would tempt you to the train that's worth a mention.
  • If you know people who use the west coast mainline, tell them why rewards would benefit them and point them to our calculator to show the potential benefits

This time we have the opportunity to highlight the value of rewards, get in in the franchise spec and be sure whoever wins the franchise in 2018 will have to offer a scheme that really values their customers.