FirstGroup is to take over the running of the West Coast mainline train route, connecting London Euston to Glasgow Central, from December. Along with Italian firm Trenitalia, FirstGroup said the route would pave the way for an era of high-speed rail.
First Trenitalia replaces Virgin Trains, which was barred from bidding to keep the route. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the bid was part of a shift to a new model for rail.
The new partnership will operate in two phases. The first will run from 8 December to March 2026, when First Trenitalia will operate the existing InterCity West Coast services. The second phase will run from March 2026 to March 2031, when it will operate the HS2 high-speed rail service.
It said its 56 Pendolino trains would be completely refurbished, with more reliable free Wi-Fi and better catering. By 2022, it says, it will offer more than 260 extra services each week, increasing seat miles by more than 10% compared with 2017-18. This will cost £117m according to the Department for Transport.