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Manchester commuters to benefit after Virgin Rail wins new West Coast deal

By Mel Hughes

Thousands of extra seats are to be made available on Virgin West Coast line between Manchester, London and Glasgow.

This comes after the Department for Transport extended their contract with the Virgin Rail Group, meaning the company will be running the West Coast line until December 2012 instead of March 2012.

Transport Minister Theresa Villiers said three new trains will now be added to the line while 31 Pendolino trains have already been increased from nine to 11 carriages – adding an extra 150 standard class seats to each train.

The Department for Transport says the improvements mean there will be an extra 28,000 seats a day – an increase of 25 per cent – First Class will remain the same.

The move also means, crucially, that services will not be changing to a new operator in the months leading up to the Olympics next year.

Ms Villiers said: “The West Coast Main Line is one of our busiest and most important rail arteries.”

“These extra seats are great news for passengers, but in the longer term, even with these improvements, the route is expected to be full by 2024.”

Tony Collins, chief executive of the Virgin Rail Group, said: “We are delighted to have worked in partnership with Government to agree this extension to the current West Coast franchise. It is great news for passengers.”

The Government is considering responses to a consultation it held on the £32bn high-speed rail project and will announce by the end of the year whether it plans to proceed with its plans.

Simon Whitton, a commuter who uses the Manchester-London service frequently, said: “It’s very much needed, there’s always people sitting on the floor of the carriages.”

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