The contract for the West Coast Mainline, that provides Chester’s link to London, has been awarded to Virgin Rail.
The deal, which has been struck between Virgin Rail and the Department for Transport, has been welcomed by Chester’s MP Stephen Mosley who described the new contract as “an excellent deal for travellers and taxpayers in Chester.”
The new West Coast contract comes into force on June 22 and runs until at least March 2017, guaranteeing at least £430 million back to the Department of Transport throughout the life of the contract. The Government will also receive up to 100% of the additional returns generated by Virgin Trains.
For passengers it will provide more seats, better wi-fi connectivity and a new customer reward programme. Twenty-one trains will see their first class carriages converted to standard class, increasing standard class capacity by 5,500 seats a day. All 76 super voyager and pendolino trains will now be equipped with superfast wi-fi while customers who book via Virgin Trains will now be able to earn Nectar rewards.
Virgin have also agreed to create jobs including apprenticeships and traineeships for young and unemployed people. On top of those benefits for customers and the economy, more than £20m will be spent on modernising stations with improved waiting rooms, extra ticket machines, more passenger information help points, as well as an upgraded website and more staff redeployed to concourses and platforms.
Commenting on the announcement, Mr Mosley said: “This is fantastic news for Chester’s transport links. The Department for Transport have secured an excellent deal for travellers and taxpayers in Chester.
“When Parliament is sitting, I travel back and forth on this line to represent Chester on the green benches. So I see for myself how important this train line is, for tourists coming to and from our city and for business people who use it day in, day out.
“Thanks to this deal, its future is secure. Travellers can now look forward to better services; our economy can benefit from new opportunities for industry; and our Government and taxpayers will reap the benefits of a well negotiated deal.”