New Era on West Coast gets off to difficult start


The new West Coast Main Line franchise holder has officially taken over the long-distance services, although it had a rocky start with passengers complaining about its website. 

Avanti West Coast, the brand name for services under the West Coast Partnership between FirstGroup and Italian train operator Trenitalia, began on Sunday (8 December), and prospective passengers were quick to take to Twitter to report the firm’s website had crashed.

Passengers trying to book tickets also complained that the new firm’s site did not have the functionality allowing them to select a seat, which was present under previous incumbent Virgin.

The West Coast Partnership also includes West Coast Partnership Development, which will be the ‘shadow operator’ for future HS2 services.

Orazio Iacono, managing director of Trenitalia, said: ‘Trenitalia will also be using its skills to help design and manage high speed rail services from North to South in the UK over the next few years.

‘The name Avanti was chosen to represent our values and recognises our ten-year experience in the high speed in Italy with 350 million passengers.

'Quality, dynamism, innovation and future: this is what we want to guarantee for the West Coast main line service.’

Last week First Trenitalia awarded a contract worth more than £350m to Hitachi Rail to provide and maintain 23 new intercity trains, to be built at its County Durham factory.

The trains will be a mix of ten seven-carriage electric trains and 13 five-carriage bi-mode trains and will start operating in 2022.

Separately, the Competitions and Markets Authority said it had accepted proposals from the partnership to address its concerns over the fact that the firm would run services alongside TransPennine Express services, which are also operated by FirstGroup.

For both West Coast Rail and TransPennine Express services these include caps on unregulated fares and maintaining the same availability of cheaper advance tickets for all 21 routes that raise competition issues.

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