The end of the line for Virgin Trains: Avanti take over West Coast Main Line

Newly formed train operator Avanti West Coast has officially taken over from Virgin Trains as the operator running the West Coast Main Line.

Avanti, owned by Aberdeen-based transport firm FirstGroup and Italian firm Trenitalia took over from what was Britain’s longest-running rail franchise this morning after Virgin Group and Stagecoach had their bid to continue running trains on the line disqualified by the Department for Transport (DfT) in April.

The operator has pledged to deliver a wide range of improvements for passengers, including a refurbishment of the Class 390 Pendolino fleet it now runs – promising 25,000 new seats and more reliable wi-fi, plus 23 new Hitachi trains which will replace its Super Voyager fleet, which is due to be phased out from 2022.

The introduction of the new Hitachi trains will coincide with when Avanti West Coast has said it would introduce 263 more weekly services.

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Photograph: Hitachi/PA

Tickets purchased through Virgin Trains for upcoming journeys will still be valid.

“I am devastated for the teams who have worked tirelessly to make Virgin Trains one of the best train companies in the UK, if not the world,” said Sir Richard Branson after the DfT announced Virgin Group had been disqualified from renewing its franchise.

“I’ve been lucky enough to meet many people from the team, from those first train journeys to world record runs, to industry firsts like our work with ex-offenders. Their passion and sense of ‘doing what was right’ has always shone through, and I know that will continue on to the next exciting chapter for the iconic West Coast route,” said Branson.

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