28 November 2019 20:32
UK: Avanti West Coast was officially unveiled as the brand name for the new West Coast Partnership franchise on November 27. Joint venture partners FirstGroup and Italian national operator Trenitalia explained that 'Avanti is Italian for "Forward!" and reflects a mission to deliver an innovative railway service that is ready for today and fit for the future'. The new operator will take over InterCity West Coast services from Virgin Trains on December 8. A range of enhancements are planned during the new franchise, including 263 more trains per week by 2022, more seats, simplified fares and more frequent services. Phil Whittingham, Managing Director of Virgin Trains since 2013, will become Managing Director of the new franchise's InterCity West Coast passenger train operating division.
Caroline Donaldson, currently Bid Director at FirstGroup, will become the Managing Director of the West Coast Partnership Development that will work with the Department for Transport and project promoter HS2 Ltd to provide a range of design and development services to support the High Speed 2 project. Talking to Rail Business UK, First Rail Managing Director Steve Montgomery said he was pleased that the existing Virgin Trains leadership team had agreed to transfer to the new operator and would continue to lead what he described as 'a well run business'. Montgomery confirmed that the 'innovative' style which had set Virgin apart was set to continue, commenting 'we don't want it to become prim and proper, we want them to continue to innovate and we want them to continue to be that bit quirky and different under the new brand name. The 56 Alstom Pendolino trains will be completely refurbished with 25 000 new seats, more reliable wi-fi and improved catering. While some FirstGroup franchises are experiencing financial challenges, the financial model for the West Coast Partnership is expected to be stable.
"We're looking forward to taking over the franchise and we are very pleased and proud to be working with Trenitalia, a strong partner who is committed to playing an increasing role in UK rail and has many years of expertise in the high-speed sector in Italy. Ernesto Sicilia, Managing Director, Trenitalia (UK) Ltd, said: "It's an amazing honour to partner with FirstGroup. "Avanti West Coast is a strong, progressive and dynamic brand that reflects our commitment to providing our customers with an exceptional service. First Trenitalia has unveiled the new branding for its forthcoming West Coast rail franchise, with the service set to operate under the Avanti West Coast name from next month. Virgin Trains lost its long-standing franchise to operate the West Coast network earlier this year, with the service scheduled to be handed over to First Trenitalia on December 8.
The new franchise runs until 2031, and is being operated jointly by First Group (which has a 70 per cent holding) and Italy's state railway company Trenitalia, which holds the remaining 30 per cent. The logo encompasses an orange triangle, which "symbolizes the three geographic points of the 400-mile long West Coast Main Line that services cities and towns across England, North Wales and Scotland". FirstGroup and Trenitalia have revealed the name of their new West Coast partnership which will be taking over the West Coast rail franchise from 8 December 2019. Avanti West Coast will take over the operation of InterCity West Coast rail services, paving the way for a more comfortable, reliable and greener service, the company says. Under the new West Coast Partnership, First Trenitalia announced it is committed to delivering a range of passenger enhancements for InterCity West Coast services and passengers will benefit from more trains, more seats, simplified fares and more frequent services. The 56 Pendolino trains will be completely refurbished with 25,000 brand new seats, more reliable Wi-Fi and improved catering. By 2022, there will be 263 more train services every week to more places and a fleet of new trains introduced. The Partnership will also pave the way for a new era in high-speed rail in the UK in the coming years, working with HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport. Speaking at the launch of the new brand, Steve Montgomery, Managing Director of First Rail said: "Today marks the start of a new era in high-speed rail services – one that will generate national prosperity and pride. Avanti West Coast enshrines the type of forward-thinking operation we intend to run, that's ready for today and fit for the future. "We're looking forward to taking over the franchise in 11 days' time and we are very pleased and proud to be working with Trenitalia, a strong partner who is committed to playing an increasing role in UK rail and has many years of expertise in the high speed sector in Italy. "We are committed to our customers and over the next few years, we will work with our industry and local partners not only to invest in, and improve, rail services on the route, but also to attract more people to rail and connect communities across the country." Avanti West Coast is a strong, progressive and dynamic brand that reflects our commitment to providing our customers with an exceptional service.