Trenitalia to take over West Coast trains
By Sasha Wood, published 16/8/19
First Trenitalia has won the franchise for the West Coast rail mainline between London and key cities such as Birmingham and Manchester, which has been operated by Virgin Trains since 1997.
In partnership with First, the Italian rail giant has won the contract for the next 10 years and will begin operating services from 31 December 2019 until 2031.
Commenting on losing the contract, Virgin Trains said it has led the industry for 22 years, but will now work with First Trenitalia “to ensure a seamless handover for customers, who should still book and travel as normal”.
The Department for Transport said the new partnership with First Trenitalia is set to provide passengers with brand-new modern trains with less CO2 emissions, station upgrades, more seats, simplified fares and 263 extra services every week on the West Coast mainline commencing in December 2022.
New services will include direct trains to and from London and Llandudno and Gobowen. Walsall will receive its first direct intercity services, and Motherwell is set to become a major calling point for most West Coast Partnership services.
First Trenitalia also said there will be two trains per hour between Liverpool and London.
Alongside providing new services and replacing the current diesel-only trains, First Trenitalia will also invest £117 million to refurbish the existing Pendolino fleet with more comfortable seats and additional luggage space.
Both the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Keith Williams, chair of the Rail Review, have heralded the partnership as vital to deliver significant benefits for passengers.
The new partnership is also designed to fit with the direction of the Williams Review into railway reform and to help implement its recommendations when it is published shortly.
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “This award is positive news for passengers, with more services, more direct connections and ambitious plans for a cleaner, greener railway, and also represents a decisive shift towards a new model for rail.
It is a partnership supported by Keith Williams, built with the flexibility to respond to his recommendations and deliver fundamental reform to a flawed system.”
First Trenitalia will also act at the shadow operator responsible for the HS2 National Rail project.