New rail franchise takes over West Coast mainline

The West Coast Main Line which runs through Staffordshire and Cheshire has a new operator after 22 years.

Avanti West Coast has taken over from Virgin Trains - ending Britain's longest-running rail franchise.

Following the last journey, the 9.42pm departure from London Euston to Wolverhampton, Virgin Trains tweeted to say thank you to its passengers for travelling - after posting this earlier in the day.

The end for Virgin Trains, which is co-owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Stagecoach, comes after its bid to continue running trains on the line was disqualified by the Department for Transport in a row over pensions.

Its routes have now been taken over by Avanti West Coast, which has pledged to deliver a range of passenger enhancements, including new trains and 263 more weekly services by 2022.

The existing fleet of Pendolino trains will be refurbished, the new operator has said.

Customers are being promised simpler fares and ticketing, 25,000 new seats, better waiting rooms at stations, new routes, more reliable wi-fi and improved catering.

Passengers will also be able to claim compensation for delays of 15 minutes, compared with the previous criteria of 30 minutes.

The new operator's parent company is a partnership between Aberdeen-based transport firm FirstGroup and Italian firm Trenitalia.

In addition to running mainline services, it is due to operate initial HS2 services, though the high-speed rail project is still in doubt.


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