Virgin Trains plans rival London-Liverpool services after franchise loss

Virgin’s West Coast Main Line franchise is due to expire next year. Credit: PA

Virgin Trains is bidding to launch a rival rail service between London and Liverpool after it loses its franchise.

The company claims fares would be "at least 10% cheaper" than those offered by elsewhere and that all passengers would be guaranteed a seat.

Virgin Trains has run services on the route since 1997 - but its bid for the next franchise was disqualified by the Department for Transport in a row over pensions.

The operator has submitted an application to launch open access services from May 2021.

Most rail services in Britain are contracted through franchises, but a handful of firms run competing open access services.

Applications for non-franchised services are considered by the rail regulator, which says they must generate extra demand rather than simply take revenue away from incumbent operators.

Virgin Trains has operated services on the West Coast Main Line since 1997. Credit: PA

Virgin Trains hopes to generate around £50 million of revenue each year running an hourly service for most of the day between London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street, calling at Lichfield, Tamworth, Nuneaton and Liverpool South Parkway.

This would be in direct competition with whoever wins the West Coast Partnership franchise, which will include West Coast Main Line and HS2 services.