First Trenitalia is the successful bidder to operate the West Coast Partnership, set to provide passengers with new trains, more seats, simplified fares and more frequent services on the West Coast Main Line.
The new provider, which will run trains through Milton Keynes Central, will takeover from Virgin Trains in December 2019 until 2031.
Passengers will benefit from more seats and 263 extra services every week, station upgrades and 61% reduction to fleet CO2 emissions through brand-new, modern trains.
First Trenitalia will also oversee the introduction of:
- more flexible and convenient smart ticketing options
- free wifi and high quality mobile connectivity on board services
- improved delay repay compensation for all passengers
- £32 million of investment into developing and delivering infrastructure capacity and capability improvements
- 10 new secure cycle storage facilities; improved bus facilities; 900 new car parking spaces, and 100 new Electric Vehicle charging points
- new ticket machines at stations, removal of the administration fee and enabling on-the-day changes to both advance tickets and seat reservations
- new initiatives to increase diversity, inclusion and skills retention in the rail industry
Both the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Keith Williams, chair of the Rail Review, have heralded the Partnership as vital to deliver the swift introduction of significant benefits for passengers. The new Partnership is also designed to fit with the direction of the Review and to facilitate the implementation of Williams’ recommendations in due course.
It also reflects a significant move away from the previous flawed franchising system to tackle issues already highlighted by the Williams Review, with the use of a forecast revenue mechanism (FRM) to avoid a repeat of the issues that affected the previous East Coast Main Line. This mechanism will be supported by a new annual review process, to ensure partnership working is effective, collaborative and continually improving.
The Transport Secretary has also confirmed that the government intends to produce a white paper in due course setting out the recommendations of Williams, to bring forward his vision for a truly passenger focused industry centred on clear, accountable leadership.