A NEW partnership will take over running the West Coast Mainline from Virgin Trains – and will operate HS2 from 2026.
From December, Virgin will no longer run trains from Coventry station after its joint contract to deliver services was snubbed in April after a row over staff pensions, as we reported.
But today (August 14) the West Coast Partnership contract was awarded instead to a joint-venture between Italian firm Trenitalia and Scotland-based First Group.
The government says the partnership – which will run trains that connect London, Coventry and Birmingham – is set to provide passengers with new trains, more seats, simplified fares and more frequent services on the line from December 8 until 2031.
The contract also means the firms will assume responsibility for running HS2 trains, integrating them into the InterCity West Coast service when the line becomes functional in 2026.
It will implement the results of a government review into HS2 which is to be launched soon.
In April, Coventry opposition Conservative councillors addressed a letter to the government’s then-transport secretary Chris Grayling asking for assurances that the city’s three fast trains to London per hour will be safeguarded.
They also sought commitments that the £82million renovation of Coventry railway station would not be affected by any changes.
The government’s department for transport has today confirmed to us that neither the three hourly fast trains from London nor the station redevelopment will be affected by the changes.
After today’s announcement, the new partnership said the deal will mean 263 extra services every week, station upgrades and 61 per cent reduction to fleet carbon dioxide emissions through greener, modern trains which will replace the diesel-only fleet.
It says it will invest £117million in a major refurbishment of the current Pendolino fleet, providing more comfortable seats and additional luggage space.
And it says it will also introduce new solar panels and energy efficient air conditioning, alongside a commitment to achieving an 80 per cent reduction in non-recyclable waste from products sold or supplied on-board trains.
The partnership has also promised more flexible and convenient smart ticketing options, free Wi-Fi, improved delay repay compensation, 10 new secure cycle storage facilities, improved bus facilities, 900 new car parking spaces, and 100 new Electric Vehicle charging points – as well as new ticket machines at stations.
Richard Branson tweeted: “I am devastated for the Virgin Trains teams who have worked tirelessly to become the top-rated franchise by customers in the UK.”