South Shropshire MP Philip Dunne welcomed today’s announcement of a direct rail link between London and Shrewsbury, to be run by Virgin Trains from December.
Virgin announced plans to run daily services between Shrewsbury and London from December of this year. The company is now submitting a request to the Office of Rail Regulation to allow two return services a day Monday through Saturday, and one return service on Sundays.
Mr Dunne said “There has been widespread support for this rail link, which I and other Shropshire MPs have campaigned for since first elected. We, with Shropshire Council, have arranged many meetings between operators, network rail and ministers to try and make it happen.
So I really am pleased that this service will go ahead from December. The economic benefits of a direct rail link will help my constituents, connecting Shropshire better and showing those looking to invest here that the county is open for business.”
The link comes as Virgin Trains signed a new franchise agreement with the Department of Transport for services on the West Coast Main Line. The contract comes into force on 22 June, runs until at least March 2017, and will provide:
- More seats: 21 trains will have one of their First Class carriages converted to Standard Class. This will increase Standard Class capacity by 5500 seats per day, a net increase of 2100 seats.
- Better connectivity: All 76 of Virgin’s Pendolino and Super Voyager trains will be equipped with superfast WiFi, which Network Rail intends to support by providing track-side infrastructure. This would be the first major intercity deployment of 4G technology on the UK rail network and provide free WiFi to all customers.
- New services: Virgin have agreed with the DfT plans for new direct services between Shrewsbury / Blackpool and London. They are working with Network Rail to develop these plans and will make a joint submission to the ORR shortly. These services are expected to start by December 2014.
- Customer reward programme: Customers who book via the Virgin Trains website or mobile app will be able to earn Nectar points on their purchase by the end of summer.
- Financial benefits for taxpayers: The contract means the DfT will receive a guaranteed payment of more than £430m over the length of the contract, as well as up to 100% of the additional returns generated by Virgin Trains.
The deal also includes other benefits such as:
- Customers: More than £20m to 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.
- Community: An increased emphasis on apprenticeships, traineeships and graduate placements, a pledge to increase SMEs in supply base by 10% and commitment to make station and training centre facilities available for community use.
- Environment: Commitment to cut CO2 emissions across stations, divert 98% of waste from landfill to recycling and implement efficient LED lighting.