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The family-owned toy company playing games with the civil service

Bigjigs Toys – a family business from Kent that makes wooden railways – is on a mission to change public opinion of the UK’s National Rail service.

Rising ticket prices, crowded services and inedible sandwiches. The privatisation of the British railway network, which began with John Major in 1993, has rarely been celebrated by UK commuters.

Thankfully though, Bigjigs Toys – a family business from Kent that makes wooden railways – is on a mission to change public opinion of the UK’s National Rail service.

In a letter to transport minister Patrick McLoughlin, the toy company suggested it was the obvious choice to take over the West Coast main line: the route that has been publicly squabbled over by Firstgroup and Virgin trains in recent months.

The family business said it could handle the franchise better than either Firstgroup or Virgin, promising a safer and more professional service that would run without delays, whatever the weather.

“Bigjigs Rail has been running an efficient and cost-effective service since 2005, and has had many customers over the years who are delighted with the service we offer,” said the letter.

Bigjigs also offered “a ‘fair’ fare for all”, that would involve a free service for all passengers.

Bigjigs Toys, which was established in 1985 by ex-teachers Peter and Liz Ireland, is now co-run by the pair’s sons and their extended family.

In what proved an ingenious marketing ploy, the toy company received a thoughtful reply to its suggestion from a civil servant at the Department for Transport.

Despite its “expert craftsmanship and high-build quality”, Bigjigs was informed of “some necessary bureaucratic hurdles” it would have to overcome before providing services on the west coast route.

“While perfect for the in-home market, wooden carriages are unlikely to meet modern crashworthiness standards for operation on the heavy rail network. Aluminium might be a better bet,” said the response from the Department for Transport.

Bigjigs has since resolved to make “a few minor changes” to its bid before resubmitting its proposal. 

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