In May this year, the then Secretary of State announced that the next intercity west coast franchise would start on 9 December 2012. It was further announced that the Department intended to enter into negotiations with the incumbent franchisee (West Coast Trains Ltd and Virgin Rail Group) to secure affordable and value-for-money operations until the start of the new franchise.
I am pleased to announce that the Department has now agreed an extension with West Coast Trains Ltd and Virgin Rail Group. This agreement will extend their current franchise on the intercity west coast route from 1 April 2012 until the start of the new franchise.
Over the course of the extension three new 600-seat Pendolino trains will be added to the line. This is in addition to the new Pendolino train which entered service in July of this year. Also, 31 of the existing Pendolino trains will be lengthened from nine to 11 carriages, increasing the number of standard class seats on each train by almost 50%, from 320 to 470. In all, 106 new carriages are being introduced on the route making 28,000 extra seats available each day, an increase of 25%. This will relieve crowding on some of the busiest parts of the west coast main line which is one the UK economy’s most important transport corridors.
Virgin will also be responsible for providing important services enabling people to travel by train to the Olympic and Paralympic games next summer.