Virgin Trains wins West Coast Main Line contract

19 Jun 2014 by GrahamSmith

Virgin Trains has promised to raise capacity on West Coast Main Line services after winning the contract to continue operating them.

The deal will run for another two years and nine months until 2017, with an option for a one-year extension.

The new West Coast contract will see Virgin invest a further £35 million to update rolling stock and provide an extra 5,500 standard class seats per day. Virgin will also invest more than £20 million to modernise stations.

This increase in seats will be made possible by converting coach G on 21 Virgin trains from first to standard class.

Virgin has also announced it will offer 'superfast' free wifi on all 76 Pendolino and Super Voyager trains. Network Rail intends to support this by providing track-side infrastructure.

Virgin claims it will be the first major intercity deployment of 4G technology on the UK rail network.

There will also be new direct services between Shrewsbury, Blackpool and London from December.

In 2012, the Government awarded the contract to rail operator First Group, but it was delayed and then cancelled after the Department for Transport discovered technical flaws in the way the franchise process was conducted.

Patrick McCall, Virgin Trains executive co-chairman, said: "We're delighted to have reached a deal after some tough negotiations with the DFT.

"It puts the problems of 2012 firmly behind us, and shows the clear benefits of a well-run franchise system."

The new West Coast contract comes into force on June 22.

In March, Virgin Trains reopened its First Class lounge at London Euston station following renovation works (see news, March 21).

Graham Smith

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