Avanti West Coast revealed as name of new West Coast Main Line operator

27 November 2019, 19:52

The new Avanti West Coast train livery
The new Avanti West Coast train livery. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The name of the new train operator replacing Virgin Trains to run the West Coast Main Line has been revealed as Avanti West Coast.

The route will be run as a partnership between FirstGroup and Italian firm Trenitalia from December 8.

Avanti West Coast is pledging to deliver a range of passenger enhancements, including 263 more weekly services by 2022. Avanti means forward in Italian.

Their trains and station signs will display an orange triangle logo symbolising the 400-mile train network which links London with towns and cities across England, North Wales and Scotland.

The existing 56 Pendolino trains will be completely refurbished with 25,000 new seats, more reliable WiFi and improved catering, while new trains will also be introduced.

Virgin Trains used to run the West Coast Main Line
Virgin Trains used to run the West Coast Main Line. Picture: PA

The operator plans to simplify fares and ticketing, update station waiting rooms, improve accessibility and offer more car park spaces.

The partnership between FirstGroup and Trenitalia is also due to operate initial HS2 services, although the future of that project is in doubt and a decision expected after the General Election.

First Rail currently operates three UK rail franchises - Great Western Railway, South Western Railway and TransPennine Express - while Trenitalia runs trains on the c2c line between east London and Shoeburyness in Essex.

First Rail managing director Steve Montgomery said Avanti West Coast will "generate national prosperity and pride", claiming the name "enshrines the type of forward-thinking operation we intend to run".

He added: "We are committed to our customers and over the next few years we will work with our industry and local partners not only to invest in and improve rail services on the route, but also to attract more people to rail and connect communities across the country."

Trenitalia UK managing director Ernesto Sicilia said: "Avanti West Coast is a strong, progressive and dynamic brand that reflects our commitment to providing our customers with an exceptional service.

"We are thrilled that the name Avanti has been chosen to represent these values to our customers and pays tribute to our expertise in transforming Italian railways."

The launch of Avanti West Coast will mark the end of Virgin Trains, which is the UK's longest running rail franchise.

The partnership between Virgin Group and Stagecoach began operating services in March 1997, but its bid to continue running trains on the line was disqualified by the Department for Transport in a row over pensions.

When the decision was announced, Virgin Group boss Sir Richard Branson said he was "devastated".

Virgin Trains recorded the highest passenger satisfaction rating of any franchised train operator in Britain in the most recent survey by watchdog Transport Focus.