Virgin Trains is to boost services from Birmingham and Scotland including direct trains to Birmingham’s airport.
The rail operator will create an additional 3,300 seats per day from December and promises to offer “fresh competition to airlines operating on the route”. The increase in capacity will be made possible by the introduction of longer trains on the routes including Pendolinos.
The change in schedules between Birmingham and Edinburgh and Glasgow will mean the “first frequent direct trains from Scotland to Birmingham airport in six years”.
The revised programme will also mean that 24 of the 28 Scottish services which currently begin or terminate in Birmingham will be extended to London Euston.
Virgin said that the moves meant that the number of daily weekday seats between Birmingham and Scotland would increase by 34 per cent from the current 9,656 to 12,967.
Chris Gibb, Virgin Trains’ chief operating officer, said: “Our plans for December represent the latest phase in our development of services on the West Coast mainline, as we strive to make the most of this iconic route by providing more trains and more seats, seven days a week.
“We face intense competition from airlines, motorways and other train companies, and will continue to drive forward improvements to attract more customers and stay ahead of our competitors, as well as playing a key part in the economic and social development of the Midlands, North West England and Scotland.”
Scotland’s transport minister Keith Brown added: “The Scottish government is determined to deliver a rail network that brings together communities and cities, connecting people to jobs and developing social and economic opportunities for all in Scotland.
“Cross-border services will help support that ambition and we very much welcome the recognition by Virgin Trains of the increasing demands on services between Scotland and Birmingham.”
Virgin is currently expected to keep running the West Coast mainline services until 2017.
The company originally lost the bid to keep running the franchise to First Group last year, but this decision by the Department for Transport was later cancelled due to serious errors in the bidding process. Virgin has agreed to keep running the services until a new franchise bidding process takes place (see online news, December 2012).
For more information, visit virgintrains.co.uk.
Report by Rob Gill