Express & Star

Virgin Trains could be back on our tracks – find out why

Virgin Trains could return to railways in the West Midlands – five years after its last service ran.

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Could Virgin Trains be on the way back?

It wants to again run rail services on the West Coast route between London and Glasgow, passing through Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stafford.

The company wants to directly compete with Avanti West Coast, the train company it lost the contract to in 2019.

Virgin Group confirmed to the BBC that it was seeking to return.

Could Virgin Trains be on the way back?

It wants the Office of Rail and Road for an 'Open Access' licence that would enable it to return to the tracks.

It means Virgin would not receive any state subsidies and would take on the risk of running a rail service itself.

Unlike Avanti, it would not hold a contract with the government to run the route.

A spokesperson for Virgin Group told the BBC: "While this application is just the first step towards exploring what might be possible, we think Open Access is the way forward.

"Open Access increases consumer choice and competition both of which Virgin has always supported."

Since taking over the franchise, Avanti has faced fierce criticism over delays and cancellations and there have been calls for it to have its licence removed, despite it being renewed last September for up to nine years.

The company, a joint venture between FirstGroup and Trenitalia, an Italian train operator, was criticised by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham. He said: “I’ve completely run out of patience. I cannot accept this railway line being left in this perennial state of chaos.”

Virgin Group said that it has applied to run services between London Euston to Preston and Rochdale via Manchester and Bolton in the north west as well as to Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow.

The previous train company was a joint venture between Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Stagecoach, the Scottish bus and rail company.

But a spokesperson for Virgin said that it had had made the application independently. If it was successful, it would manage the trains itself.

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