Improvements to Crewe, Stoke and Stafford stations pledged by new West Coast Main Line operator

First Trenitalia has won the contract to run rail services on the West Coast Main Line through Staffordshire and Cheshire.

The new operator, made up of First Group and Italian firm Trenitalia, replaces Virgin from December.

Amongst the pledges it has made is that there will be free Wi-fi, improved waiting rooms and new ticket machines at rail stations in Crewe, Stoke and Stafford.

New trains will replace Super Voyagers, and all Pendolinos will be fully refurbished.

There will also be additional services between Crewe and Liverpool.

First Trenitalia will also oversee the introduction of new environmentally-friendly trains, entirely replacing the diesel-only fleet and reducing CO2 emissions by 61%.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "This award is positive news for passengers, with more services, more direct connections and ambitious plans for a cleaner, greener railway, and also represents a decisive shift towards a new model for rail."

A Virgin Trains spokesperson said "Virgin Trains has led the industry for 22 years, delivering faster journeys to more destinations, harnessing new technology and always putting the customer first.

"We’ll now work with First Trenitalia to ensure a seamless handover for customers, who should still book and travel as normal."

Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Economic Growth and Chair of the West Midlands Rail Executive, has welcomed the promise of improvements.

He said: “I welcome the commitment to add more trains and more services on the West Coast Main Line, as well as the promise to upgrade existing rolling stock.

“Good physical and electronic infrastructure are at the heart of Staffordshire’s economic success and investment that improves our links to London, the rest of the country and international airports is to be welcomed.

“I am arranging a meeting with First Trenitalia to discuss Staffordshire’s priorities and how we will be monitoring the delivery of services now and when HS2 is running.”

But the Rail, Maritime and Transport union has raised concerns about the announcement.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, said: "The announcement this morning that First Trenitalia are being shunted on to the West Coast Main Line to replace Virgin/Stagecoach in the midst of the rail staff pension row is just another political fix by a Government whose privatised franchise model is collapsing around their ears.

"Instead of following the popular public sector route, the Tories are taking yet another gamble on the crucial West Coast lines with one of the dwindling number of private operator consortia left in the game, in a move that RMT believes is doomed to failure and sure to result in yet more rail chaos.

"RMT will take whatever action is required to protect out members' pay, jobs, working conditions and pensions on these vital inter-city routes."

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