Launched in 1997, Virgin Trains was Britain’s longest-running rail franchise, but its routes have now been taken over.
Virgin Trains has waved goodbye to its passengers, making its last trip after 22 years and almost 500 million journeys.
Britain’s longest-running rail franchise, which began serving the West Coast Main Line in March 1997, operated its final service on Saturday night.
Following the last journey, the 9.42pm departure from London Euston to Wolverhampton, Virgin Trains tweeted to say thank you to its passengers for travelling – after posting this earlier in the day.
We’re not crying. You’re crying.
— Virgin Trains (@VirginTrains) 7 December 2019
A huge thank you to all our wonderful people at @VirginTrains – it’s down to all of your incredible work every day that Virgin Trains has been the UK’s longest running and top-rated rail franchise https://t.co/FdFYbYuuYP #VirginFamily pic.twitter.com/KEr5ZprILr
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) 7 December 2019
The end for Virgin Trains, which is co-owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Stagecoach, comes after its bid to continue running trains on the line was disqualified by the Department for Transport in a row over pensions.
Its routes have now been taken over by Avanti West Coast, which has pledged to deliver a range of passenger enhancements, including new trains and 263 more weekly services by 2022.
The existing fleet of Pendolino trains will be refurbished, the new operator has said.
Customers are being promised simpler fares and ticketing, 25,000 new seats, better waiting rooms at stations, new routes, more reliable wi-fi and improved catering.
Passengers will also be able to claim compensation for delays of 15 minutes, compared with the previous criteria of 30 minutes.
The new operator’s parent company is a partnership between Aberdeen-based transport firm FirstGroup and Italian firm Trenitalia.
Currently collecting all of our personal belongings
— Virgin Trains (@VirginTrains) 4 December 2019
In addition to running mainline services, it is due to operate initial HS2 services, though the high-speed rail project is still in doubt.
First Rail operates three other UK rail franchises – Great Western Railway, South Western Railway and TransPennine Express – while Trenitalia also runs trains on the c2c line between east London and Shoeburyness in Essex.