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FirstGroup to co-run train services on West Coast Mainline

There is going to be a new train operator on the West Coast Mainline. Credit: PA Images

First Trenitalia will operate train services on the West Coast Main Line from December 8.

This will include trains which travel through our region, including at Oxenholme, Penrith, Carlisle and Lockerbie's stations.

First Trenitalia is a joint partnership between Aberdeen-based FirstGroup and Italian-owned train operator Trenitalia.

The joint venture was awarded the West Coast Partnership (WCP) contract.

In total, 263 extra services are anticipated on the railway. It's likely these will run on the new High Speed Two line, the majority of which is yet to be built.

The company also says it will have more comfortable seats on existing trains, charging points at every seat and a delay repay service which kicks in after 15 minutes.

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The Department for Transport said the Government will "shortly launch a review" into the new high-speed railway, which was widely expected after Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.

It added that the WCP has been designed to ensure it can "implement the review's outcomes".

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.

– Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary

In a statement to the stock exchange the partnership said it would be a "shadow operator" for HS2.

First Trenitalia will then operate HS2 and the reshaped InterCity West Coast rail services together as an integrated operation in the second phase, from March 2026 until March 2031, under a management contract

– First Trentitalia statment
The new rail company will run services from December. Credit: PA

Virgin Trains has today issued the following statement in response to the news.

Virgin Trains has led the industry for 22 years, delivering faster journeys to more destinations, harnessing new technology and always putting the customer first.

"We’ll now work with First Trenitalia to ensure a seamless handover for customers, who should still book and travel as normal."

– Virgin Trains spokesperson

Virgin Group boss Sir Richard Branson wrote in a Tweet that he was “devastated” by the partnership.

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The partnership comes on the same day rail commuters discovered they may have to pay an extra 3% for their season rail ticket.

The cap on the annual rise in regulated fares is linked to July’s rate of Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation.

Rail campaign groups have warned that commuters will “refuse to pay” if season ticket prices continue to be hiked.

  • We spoke to commuters at Carlisle Railway Station.