THE new Avanti West Coast franchise is being officially launched today.
A consortium of FirstGroup and Trenitalia won the West Coast Partnership contract, displacing Virgin and Stagecoach after more than 20 years on the route, and assumed responsibility at 02.00 yesterday morning.
The new operator will provide intercity services on the West Coast Main Line, and is also expected to introduce services on HS2 under a low-risk management contract in due course, assuming that the project goes ahead.
A fully liveried train bearing the franchise’s new branding is travelling from London Euston to Glasgow Central today, calling at Coventry, Birmingham International, Stafford, Preston, Crewe, Carlisle and Motherwell.
Before it leaves London the Pendolino will be named ‘Pride and Prosperity’ by Matthew Gregory of FirstGroup and and Orazio Iacono of Trenitalia, in the presence of Italian ambassador Raffaele Trombetta.
The 56 Pendolino sets will be completely refurbished, while new electric and bi-mode Intercity Expresses built by Hitachi are due to enter service in 2022, replacing the Voyagers.
Avanti is promising simplified fares, improved on-board catering and Delay Repay compensation for delays of 15 minutes or longer, in accordance with government policy for new franchises.
FirstRail managing director Steve Montgomery said: ‘We’re delighted to start serving the customers who take 40 million journeys every year on the west coast. We’ll bring families, friends, businesses and communities closer together with new trains and new destinations. We’re excited to get our plans underway and take services to the next level.’