Virgin plans video players on seat backs

Virgin Trains is looking at introducing video entertainment systems on the back of seats on its high-speed tilting trains, similar to those already installed in Virgin Atlantic aeroplanes.

The company has put out a notice to tender for a company to design, maintain and supply such a system. The screens would allow passengers to access video and audio entertainment, information, e-mails and other services. The system will also carry advertising.

A spokesman for Virgin says that Virgin Trains is looking to identify possible suppliers and, if the project goes ahead, it will be a joint venture with rolling-stock leasing company Angel Trains. He adds that no decision has yet been made as to whether the screens would be for first-class passengers only.

The contract is planned to be for ten years, subject to the results of a pilot scheme and marketing studies. Applicants must show a track record in providing suitable video entertainment equipment for trains “or similar”. Virgin Airlines has similar equipment installed and its preferred supplier is Matsushita.

Virgin Trains is to introduce the so-called Pendolino trains on the West Coast mainline route next summer, in time for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. Initially they will run at 125mph and when the line is upgraded by 2005 they should reach 140mph.

The recent decision to put Railtrack into administration has raised questions over the upgrade funding, but both Virgin trains and the Government maintain that the overhaul will take place.

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