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Stafford's Virgin Trains staff celebrate new franchise

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: June 26, 2014

  • FULL STEAM AHEAD...Virgin Trains staff Julie Farnwell, Karen Pryor, Sarah Edwards, Justin Williams and Nigel Schulp celebrate.

  • FULL STEAM AHEAD...Virgin Trains staff Sarah Edwards, Karen Pryor, Julie Farnwell, Justin Williams and Nigel Schulp celebrate.

  • FULL STEAM AHEAD...Virgin Trains staff Julie Farnwell, Karen Pryor, Sarah Edwards, Justin Williams and Nigel Schulp celebrate.

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VIRGIN Trains staff at Stafford station are celebrating after the firm's franchise to run the West Coast Mail Line and its stations was renewed by the government.

The new deal ends two years of uncertainty for staff after Virgin launched a legal challenge to the government's decision to award a 13-year franchise to First Group. The Department for Transport eventually scrapped the First franchise, due to "significant technical flaws" in the bidding process.

Karen Pryor, acting team leader with Virgin at Stafford, said staff were overjoyed by the news.

"Many of us have spent our whole working lives with Virgin and we were all very upset at the thought of an upheaval, because it is such a good company to work for," she said.

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"Now we feel we have got our sparkle back and it really is full steam ahead."

The new deal, which extends Virgin's franchise for another three years, means a £35 million investment in improvements, including an additional 5,500 standard-class seats each day on the route between London and Scotland.

Virgin will also invest more than £20 million on modernising stations and improving passenger facilities. Free wi-fi will be available at stations.

The train operator is also converting 21 first-class carriages to standard class to improve carrying capacity, spending £2.5 million on refurbishing the interiors of its Pendolino trains and £2.75 m illion on improving catering facilities.

Virgin, which has run the franchise since 1997, is paying the government £430 million under the latest deal.

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