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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. 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."

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". 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.

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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. 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.

Travellers told to 'abandon travel' on Virgin Trains

Passengers hoping to board a Virgin Train today have been told to "abandon" their travel plans. In a series of tweets Virgin said customers already travelling would be left at the nearest station.

Virgin Trains: No services north of Preston

Virgin Trains has suspended all services north of Preston, and reported delays between Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly:

Virgin Trains: No services running to or from Scotland

Virgin Trains is advising that none of its services are running to or from Scotland, and that there are delays between London and Carlile:

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Toilet tank 'flaw' behind Virgin trains odour

A strong acidic odour that has troubled Virgin Trains for years has finally been traced to a design flaw in the tanks below the vehicles' toilets.

Virgin is correcting the flaw in its tanks that causes its trains distinctive odour as part of a £3.5 million refurbishment. Credit: PA

The tanks - which hold up to half a ton of waste - have their ventilation outlets positioned too close to the trains' air-conditioning inlets, meaning and unpleasant scent circulates around the carriages, The Sunday Times (£) reported.

Virgin, which plans to fix the problem as part of a £3.5m refurbishment programme, said: “Although toilet smells on our trains have attracted comment over the years, it’s worth setting that in context.

"The most recent National Passenger Survey showed satisfaction with our on-board toilet facilities significantly higher, 60%, than the average for long-distance operators, 52%.”

'Del Boy' Branson accused over 'skimpy' Virgin uniforms

Virgin Trains has delayed the introduction of new uniforms after some female staff said blouses were see through and too low cut.

The rail operator is now offering £20 vouchers for women employees to buy undergarments to save them any embarrassment.

A union chief said staff had complained the red blouses were too flimsy and would allow male passengers to see dark bras being worn underneath.

A union has accused Sir Richard Branson of sourcing train uniforms from 'Del Boy' Trotter Credit: eoff Caddick/PA Wire

"Our female members are upset because they feel Sir Richard Branson is cutting corners by asking them to wear flimsy blouses which are skimpy and they feel too revealing," said Manuel Cortes of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association.

"He has asked Vivienne Westwood to design the new uniform for his air crews. Unfortunately, by contrast, it looks like he is getting the blouses for train crews from Del Boy at Trotters Independent Traders Ltd at Peckham Market."

The problem came to light after trials of a new uniform for staff on Virgin's West Coast Main Line.

Rail franchising process plans to be announced

Today the government will announce plans to re-open the rail franchising process, six months after the collapse of the West Coast Mainline deal.

It is thought that the priority will be to agree a new ownership deal for the East Coast mainline.

A new ownership deal for the East Coast mainline could be a priority Credit: Martin Keene/PA Wire

The rail route will be put back into private ownership after a long period under state control.

The decision is expected to reignite the rivalry between Virgin Trains and FirstGroup, who competed for the west coast franchise last year.

Department for Transport needs to be 'reorganised'

MP Louise Ellman told ITV Daybreak that the Department for Transport needs to be reorganised, with more commercial expertise involved, when dealing with specific franchise bids.

MP Louise Ellman is calling for more commercial expertise involved, when dealing with specific franchise bids Credit: John Stillwell/PA Archive

In October the Government U-turned on the decision to award FirstGroup the West Coast Mainline, after finding "significant technical flaws" in the way the procurement was conducted.

Virgin are now running the service until November 2014, with the fiasco costing the taxpayer £43 million.

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