Image: Virgin Trains

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street has welcomed the takeover of West Coast Main Line rail services, describing the news as “a great opportunity” for the West Midlands.

Taking over from Virgin Trains in December, First-Trenitalia (a joint venture between First Group and Trenitalia) has promised a major £117 million refurbishment of the Pendolino trains fleet which will create 25,000 new seats and provide at-seat power for all passengers.

The agreement also includes the replacement of the diesel trains fleet with brand new modern trains which will see a 61% reduction in the fleets CO2 emissions.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “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.

“It is a Partnership supported by Chair of the Rail Review, Keith Williams, built with the flexibility to respond to his recommendations and deliver fundamental reform to a flawed system. Meeting Keith last week confirmed our shared determination to deliver a future that puts passengers at the heart of the railways, and get our trains to run on time.

“That is why I have asked Keith to produce his recommendations for a white paper, with fearless proposals that will deliver a railway system fit for the 21st century.”

The 70:30 joint venture between First Group and Italian firm Trenitalia, has promised:

  • A complete refurbishment of Pendolino trains incorporating 25,000 new seats
  • Free and improved WiFi with at-seat power for all passengers
  • To work with local partners to deliver major station upgrades at Coventry and Birmingham International
  • A new direct service from Walsall to London Euston
  • 263 extra services each week by 2022

Andy Street said: “This is a great opportunity for the West Midlands and its rail users. Virgin did a good job running the line for 20 years and, although it was not without its problems, the service improved markedly over that period.

“However there is always room for further improvements and I am very excited to see what First-Trenitalia bring to the table. In particular, the promise of a direct Walsall train and improved stations at Birmingham International and Coventry is great news for the region and I know will be welcomed by passengers.

“I spoke to the firm on the day the news was announced and was encouraged by their vision. I look forward to having a close working relationship to make sure passengers across the region get the best service possible.”

As well as the upgrades and improvements to rail services, First-Trenitalia has committed to keeping three direct trains an hour from Coventry to London.