FirstGroup and Trenitalia launched the new West Coast Partnership franchise on 9 December 2019, operated under the brand name Avanti West Coast.
The franchise comprises two distinct parts – Avanti West Coast will run current services on the West Coast main line, with West Coast Partnership Development working with HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport to develop and operate high-speed services when HS2 opens.
Committed service enhancements by the new operator include 263 more services every week by 2022, with plans for a half-hourly all-day service between London and Liverpool. A £117 million refurbishment of the 56-strong Class 390 Pendolino fleet will include the debut of a new standard class seat designed outside the railway industry. The work is expected to be carried out by Alstom at its Widnes modernisation centre, which has just completed a repaint of the Pendolinos. The first refurbished train is expected to be released towards the end of 2020, with the programme complete by April 2023.
Another innovation from Avanti West Coast is the development of a third travel class, likely to be a premium economy offering through which standard class passengers could pay a supplement to sit in first class carriages. An Avanti West Coast spokesperson cautioned that the idea is at an early stage with detailed work yet to be carried out but told Modern Railways: ‘The introduction of new customer choices on Avanti West Coast could involve a new range of price points at certain times of the day, such as an offering positioned between standard and first class.’