Britain’s rail industry joined forces today to transport 350 Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes from Manchester to London as part of nationwide celebrations of their Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games success.
The athletes’ journey today was made possible by Virgin Trains, Caledonian Sleeper, GB Railfreight and Network Rail, which each offered their services free of charge.
The Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes enjoyed a celebratory ‘welcome home’ parade on the streets of Manchester yesterday.
Early today they boarded their two trains from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston for celebration events at Trafalgar Square.
Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “It is our privilege to help honour our Team GB and ParalympicsGB heroes. They did us proud in Rio. We hope we did them proud today, too.”
Phil Whittingham, managing director of Virgin Trains on the west coast, said: “Team GB and ParalympicsGB are an inspiration to us all, a great example of what can be achieved when you aim high. That’s why we had no hesitation in playing our small part in their richly deserved homecoming celebrations.”
Ryan Flaherty, guest experience director of Caledonian Sleeper, said: “These remarkable individuals are extraordinary role models for us all, so we are humbled that we are able to play a part in recognising the true appreciation we have for their efforts.”
John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, whose locomotive pulled the Caledonian, said: “We’re thrilled to be able to participate in the celebrations with Team GB and Paralympics GB. Huge congratulations to our athletes for their outstanding achievements this summer.”
A red carpet was rolled out at Manchester Piccadilly station today for the Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes.
As they boarded their trains the Transpennine Express Choir sung and local school children waved them off.
On board the Caledonian Sleeper serving refreshments to the athletes was Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s West Coast route managing director, who said: “I was inspired by these Team GB and ParalympicsGB heroes over the summer. Serving them croissants and coffee today was a great honour and, frankly, the least I could do.”
Waiting beside the platforms at Euston were 10 red double-decker London buses, which took the athletes on to Trafalgar Square.
Steven Knight is a Transport Specialist who has over 40 years experience in the bus and rail industries as well as in specialist transport journalism. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists.