End of the line for Virgin Trains as Avanti West Coast takes over

7 December 2019, 10:55

Virgin Trains is being taken over by Avanti
Virgin Trains is being taken over by Avanti. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Virgin Trains is set to pull out from the station one final time this evening as Avanti West Coast takes over the West Coast Main Line.

From Sunday, Virgin's bright red carriages will be re-painted green.

Since 1997, around 520 million journeys have been made on Virgin's railways, which was the UK's longest-running rail franchise.

But its bid to continue running trains on the line was disqualified by the Department for Transport in a row over pension liabilities

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

It has pledged to deliver a range of passenger enhancements, including 263 more weekly services by 2022 when 23 new Hitachi-built trains begin entering service to replace the Voyagers.

The existing fleet of Pendolino trains will be refurbished with 25,000 new seats, more reliable wi-fi and improved catering.

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

Avanti West Coast also plans to simplify fares and ticketing, refresh station waiting rooms, boost accessibility and offer more car parking spaces.

In addition to running mainline services, the partnership between FirstGroup and Trenitalia is due to operate initial HS2 services, if the high speed rail project goes ahead.

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