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Bring back East Coast Rewards

Dear Mr Horne,

We are writing to you on behalf of all of the 670,000 East Coast Rewards members to ask that you reinstate the East Coast Rewards scheme and allow passengers to earn rewards points to spend on free travel.

It's been a few weeks since Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) have taken over operation of the line and there's no evidence that this franchise has your passengers best interests at heart, despite you telling us otherwise. You have removed the UK's best rail loyalty scheme without any consultation with the 670,000 rewards members and we are not happy with the Nectar alternative you have offered.

The Save East Coast Rewards campaign has evidence from the East Coast Freedom of Information request which shows how significant the scheme has been at attracting extra customers, something that Nectar will not be able to match. If customers want to earn Nectar points they can already do so by booking all their travel through a FirstGroup website, there's no incentive to book through VTEC who only promise Nectar points on their own services. The most important thing is the figures showed that East Coast Rewards was profitable for your business.

Nectar is a poor choice whether you're a relatively infrequent traveller (£255 spend for a free ticket will beat a free sandwich for most people!) or a frequent traveller (£1400 spend for 4 first class tickets is a lot better than £14 in Nectar points).

When starting this campaign we've encountered a wide range of people making good use of rewards as well as the business traveller, a lot of students use it to make extra trips back home, football supporters use points to make getting to away matches more affordable and we have heard of small businesses either using the tickets as a thank you to employees or a means to cutting business travel costs.

For all these people scrapping rewards is an effective fare rise.

Although infrequent travellers were first looked after by East Coast Rewards all private operators since GNER have had good loyalty schemes for their high spenders.

On this line there's never been an operator like Virgin Trains East Coast before, the operator that has said more often than most that they want to listen. In reality we've found that VTEC is the one that's listening least out of all the operators.

If VTEC had done proper research they would have realised the history of the loyalty schemes on East Coast, they would have waited until they'd taken over the franchise so they could have launched a proper consultation with the existing members. Even National Express East Coast (NXEC) launched a customer panel to provide input on their loyalty scheme.

We want you to reinstate the East Coast Rewards scheme for all of the 670,000 rewards members.

We're aware that certain aspects of the scheme may need to be tweaked to be more commercially attractive alongside your existing Nectar and Virgin Flying club schemes, but from our research we see no just reason why you are unable to do this. It'll be important to ensure that season ticket holders and business travel customers are not neglected as they are currently under Nectar.

We're willing to put our campaign on hold if you're willing to do a proper consultation. We're also willing to work with you to ensure you can produce a loyalty scheme that's worthy of the East Coast.

So although the start has not impressed us, we know you have the experience and the skills to do a great job. We can work together to enable great things to happen on the East Coast mainline. The first step to doing that is to get all your existing customers back on-side first.

Regards,

Save East Coast Rewards

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