Virgin Pendolino

Rail chiefs plan extra capacity for West Coast line

More trains will be added to a key London-to-Scotland rail route to relieve overcrowding, it has been announced.

Virgin Trains will add three new 600-seat "tilting" Pendolino trains to the West Coast line next summer.

Also, 31 of the existing Pendolino trains will be lengthened from nine to 11 carriages, increasing the number of standard-class seats on each train by almost 50 per cent, from 320 to 470.

In all, 106 new carriages are being introduced on the route, making 28,000 extra seats available each day, an increase of 25 per cent.

The extra capacity was announced by Transport Minister Theresa Villiers as she also announced that the Department for Transport had extended the Virgin West Coast franchise from April 1 2012 until December 9 2012.

From December 9 next year, the West Coast route will be operated under a new 15-year franchise for which Virgin is competing with three other short-listed companies.

Also in the running are UK transport company FirstGroup, French company Keolis and Dutch company Abellio which has recently won the new Greater Anglia franchise.

"It is great news for passengers and will also deliver value for money to taxpayers," said Virgin Rail Group chief executive Tony Collins.

"The extension will bring continuity and allow us to run services for passengers at an exciting and challenging time for the country with the 2012 Games, which start in July next year.

"This reflects the high quality of service and investment in new trains and improved infrastructure, which has hugely benefited customers using the backbone of the UK rail network."

Ms Villiers said: "These extra seats are great news for passengers, but in the longer term, even with these improvements, the route is expected to be full by 2024.

"This is why we are considering proposals for a high speed rail line (HS2) between London, the West Midlands, Manchester, Leeds and potentially beyond."

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