More seats and free WiFi on West Coast Main Line

Lancaster Railway Station. Stock Picture.
Lancaster Railway Station. Stock Picture.

Free WiFi and extra seats in standard class have helped Virgin Trains secure the West Coast Mainline for the next two years.

The company has been contracted to run the franchise until 2016, promising free 4G internet, an additional 5,500 extra standard class seats every day, and a £20m investment to modernise stations.

Damien Henderson, from Virgin, said that passengers put free WiFi above extra seats on their list of desirable improvements.

Currently the company’s fleet of nine carriage pendolino trains have four first class and five standard class carriages, but this will change to three first class and six standard.

When this will happen is not yet known, but the WiFi introduction will depend on the speed at which Network Rail can build masts along the line.

It is not known either if Lancaster railway station will receive a makeover.

Mr Henderson said: “There will be free WiFi on all the stations we manage, as well as on-board.

“On a long distance journey lasting several hours, connectivity is really important and WiFi tops the list of aspirations for passengers at the moment.

“There’s a £20m pot of investment for station improvements as well, but the details on where have not been finalised yet.

“We’ve reduced over-crowding quite significantly in the last few years, and we’ll now be converting one of the first class carriages on our nine carriage Pendolinos to standard.”

Mr Henderson said there had been a shift in demand for first class and standard tickets, and while both markets are growing, standard is growing faster.

He added: “Friday northbound journeys out of Euston have always been a problem (for overcrowding), and to some extent that will always be the case, so it’s really important we make every effort to manage that demand. The additional capacity we added on our 11-car trains and the new capacity announced this week helps us do that.

“We’re really pleased with the announcement about the contract.

“We’ve provided stability over the last year and a half, and the announcement this week allows us to provide significant invest and passenger improvements.”

Eric Ollershaw, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood said: “This is fantastic news for everyone – not only will we see significant investment in our local stations, but the addition of an extra 5,500 seats is something that will benefit anyone who travels by train.

“This kind of investment will mean that our area will be more attractive to business and tourism, as well as improving the service for regular users, something that I think we can all agree is excellent news for our city.”