Avanti West Coast has taken over operation of the InterCity West Coast rail franchise, replacing Virgin Trains which leaves the UK rail market after 22 years as one of its leading operators.
Operating company West Coast Partnership is a joint venture between First Group, which already operates services in the UK as Great Western Railway, South Western Railway, TransPennine Express and Hull Trains, and Italian state railway company Trenitalia.
Reflecting the Italian component of the joint venture, Avanti is Italian for “Forward”, and the company hopes that the new name reflects its aim to deliver a railway service that is “ready for today and fit for the future”.
As the first Avanti services commenced their runs on the morning of Sunday 8 December 2019, First Trenitalia said that it was committed to delivering a range of passenger enhancements for InterCity West Coast services and that passengers will benefit from more trains, more seats, simplified fares and more frequent services. The company plans to completely refurbish the 56 Pendolino trains with 25,000 brand new seats, more reliable Wi-Fi and improved catering. By 2022, there will be 263 more train services every week to more places and a fleet of new Hitachi-built trains introduced.
The operator has also pledged to simplify fares and ticket types, introducing mobile tickets and smartcards. Stations will also be improved, with refreshed waiting rooms, better customer facilities, more car park spaces, and greater accessibility for those who need it.
In addition to running the West Coast services, the new franchise operator will work with HS2 and the Department for Transport to develop and operate future high-speed rail services.
Speaking at the launch of the new brand, Steve Montgomery, managing director of First Rail, said: “We are very pleased and proud to be working with Trenitalia, a strong partner who is committed to playing an increasing role in UK rail and has many years of expertise in the high-speed sector in Italy.
“We are committed to our customers and over the next few years, we will work with our industry and local partners not only to invest in, and improve, rail services on the route, but also to attract more people to rail and connect communities across the country.”
In response, Ernesto Sicilia, managing director of Trenitalia (UK) Ltd, said: “It’s an amazing honour to partner with FirstGroup. After our entrance into the British market in 2017, today marks another step in our ambition to play a positive role in the UK rail industry, in which we see a great future.
“Avanti West Coast is a strong, progressive and dynamic brand that reflects our commitment to providing our customers with an exceptional service. We are thrilled that the name Avanti has been chosen to represent these values to our customers and pays tribute to our expertise in transforming Italian railways.”
The new Avanti logo was created by London-based design agency ‘forpeople’. It is a bright orange triangle, intended to symbolise the geographic extent of the 400-mile long route that serves Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow as well as London and North Wales (see slider below).