Virgin Trains has agreed new deal with the UK Government, which will see the company continue to run the West Coast franchise through to at least 31 March 2019, with the option for up to a further one-year extension at the Department for Transport’s discretion. The existing franchise expires on 31 March 2018, and the new contract will bridge the gap between the existing franchise and the new West Coast Partnership, due to start on 1 April 2019.
Under the deal, Virgin Trains will upgrade all its 56 Pendolino trains, vastly improving the on-board equipment, and allowing free WiFi to be extended to all Pendolino customers. Installation of the WiFi upgrade is planned to begin on the Pendolino fleet from May 2018, with the work expected to be completed by January 2019, when free WiFi will be extended to all Pendolino customers. In addition, the new technology is ‘future-proofed’ so it will work with 5G mobile phone networks as they come on stream and offer further speed improvements. The upgrade will also unlock the ability to offer more technology-led improvements in the future, all of which will increase customer satisfaction.
In addition to the WiFi improvements on board, Virgin Trains will also investigate eliminating ‘not-spots’, or places without mobile phone coverage, on parts of its network.