Virgin plans cheaper rival Liverpool-London train service

People disembark from a Virgin Train Image copyright Virgin Trains
Image caption The operator said tickets would be cheaper but the service would be slightly slower

Virgin Trains plans to launch a new hourly train service between Liverpool and London when it loses its current franchise which includes the route.

The service would rival the new operator of the West Coast Mainline from May 2021.

Virgin promised fares "at least 10% cheaper" than its competitor and a reservation-only model would mean all passengers were guaranteed a seat.

Virgin is not allowed to bid for the new West Coast Mainline franchise.

It has now submitted proposals to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), which says it must generate extra demand rather than take revenue away from other operators.

The service would run between Liverpool Lime Street and Euston, stopping at Liverpool South Parkway, Nuneaton, Tamworth and Lichfield.

Slower journeys

A spokesman for the operator said journey times would be slower than the current two hours and 10 minutes, but less than two-and-a-half hours.

The service would not use the Pendolino trains, which would remain with the new franchisee, added the spokesman.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Virgin Trains was barred from bidding for the new West Coast Mainline franchise in a row over pensions

Virgin will stop running trains on the West Coast Mainline when a new operator takes over in March 2020.

It was disqualified from bidding on three franchises because the Department for Transport (DfT) said Stagecoach, which owns a 49% stake in the business, did not meet pensions rules.

Virgin managing director Phil Whittingham said: "These new services will allow us to take the customer experience on the UK's railways to the next level and show the rest of the industry how it can be done."

A handful of rail operators currently run services in competition with franchise holders, including the Heathrow Express.

An ORR spokesman said it would consider Virgin's application "in line with our open access policy".

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