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Richard Branson: Great news for Virgin Trains

Founder of Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson has taken to Twitter to welcome the "great news" of Virgin Trains securing an extension deal to its West Coast Main Line franchise.

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Great news @virgintrains customers & staff: new DfT deal will mean free wifi, 1000s more seats, new direct services http://t.co/QQT0lfwfG5

Under the extension deal, West Coast services will continue until March 2017 and a number of "improvements" including increased capacity, new services and "superfast Wifi" will be unveiled.

Read: Virgin Trains plan new services under extension deal

Virgin Trains plan new services under extension deal

Under the extension deal for Virgin Trains to continue running a West Coast service until March 2017, the operator plans for Shrewsbury to have two services in each direction Monday to Saturday and one service in each direction on Sunday.

Blackpool North is also expected to have one service in each direction Monday to Friday.

The company has committed to working with Network Rail on improving journey times.
The company has committed to working with Network Rail on improving journey times. Credit: PA

The company has also committed to working with Network Rail on improving journey times, including the remodeling of Carstairs junction in South Lancashire.

Virgin Trains executive chairman Patrick McCall said: "We're delighted to have reached a deal after some tough negotiations with the Department of Transport.

"It puts the problems of 2012 firmly behind us, and shows the clear benefits of a well-run franchise system."

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Virgin to pay £430m to continue West Coast service

Virgin is to pay £430 million to the Government, a 58% increase a year, over the course of the extended contract to continue running the West Coast service.

The franchise serves more than 30 million passengers a year and covers areas including London, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Strathclyde and Lothian.

The franchise serves more than 30 million passengers a year and said it's "crucial to improve services".
The franchise serves more than 30 million passengers a year and said it's "crucial to improve services". Credit: PA

Virgin said 21 trains will have one of their first class carriages converted to standard class, resulting in an increase of 2,100 seats per day.

It will also aim to start new direct services between Shrewsbury, Blackpool and London from December, boosting connections for passengers.

"The West Coast provides a vital artery between London and Scotland and it is crucial we do everything we can to improve services on this much-used route," Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said.

Read: Virgin wins rail deal extension to run West Coast service

Virgin wins rail deal extension to run West Coast service

Virgin Trains promised to increase capacity on the West Coast mainline after securing a deal to continue running the franchise until March 2017.

A temporary deal allows Virgin to run the West Coast service until November.
A temporary deal allows Virgin to run the West Coast service until November. Credit: PA

The operator said there will be "significant improvements" for customers with the introduction of free superfast WiFi, more seats and new services.

Virgin Trains previously lost out to FirstGroup in the battle for a new 13-year West Coast franchise, but the process was scrapped by the Department for Transport due to errors in the bidding process.

Using a mobile while driving 'worse than drink or drugs'

The Government are considering introducing tougher penalties for using a mobile phone while you drive after research showed that it slowed reactions more than drink or drugs, The Sunday Times (£) reports.

A file picture of a woman driving her car while talking on her mobile phone. Credit: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/DPA

A study by the Transport Research Laboratory found that a driver's reaction time slowed by 46% when they made a call on a mobile, compared with 37% when texting and 27% during hands-free calls.

It also found that reaction times reduced by 13% for those on the drink-drive limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood and 21% for those who had used cannabis.

The newspaper showed the results to road safety minister Robert Goodwill who said he would talk to the Ministry of Justice about the issue and added: "I will see if we need to change the penalties.”

London Underground 'pleased people will not endure strike'

London Underground and the Rail, Maritime and Transport union have welcomed the decision to suspend a three-day tube strike, which was due to start tonight at 9pm.

I am pleased that Londoners will not have to endure further strike action this week. The only way to resolve this dispute is for the RMT leadership to work with us to shape the future of the Tube in a changing world. It is good that they have committed to doing so alongside the three other unions involved.

– Phil Hufton, chief operating officer of London Underground

We have been able to secure real movement and significant progress on the issues at the heart of this dispute in talks with the Tube management over the bank holiday weekend.

– Mick Cash, acting RMT general secretary

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Last-ditch bid to avert Underground strike begins

The London Underground and Rail, Maritime and Transport are holding last-ditch talks just hours before a three day strike, that could affect millions of people across London and surrounding areas.

Conciliation service Acas said the talks between the RMT and London Underground started at 10am.

RMT union members are set to walk out of their jobs for three days at 9pm this evening, in a long-running dispute with the London Underground over ticket office closures.

A two-day strike last week caused huge disruption, with roads clogged as people switched to other forms of transport.

More: RMT: Cuts to 'safety-critical' Tube jobs led us to strike

MPs vote to give HS2 bill a second reading

ITV News Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship has been following the votes on the HS2 bill in the House of Commons.

MPs have now voted in favour of giving the legislation a second reading.

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MPs vote on whether to give #hs2 bill a second reading. Result: YES-452 NO-41

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Smaller number of MPs vote against #HS2 for second reading. But many more abstentions we hear

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According to @labourwhips PM @david_cameron did not vote in support of his own big £50bn infrastructure project #HS2

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