New direct train services connecting Lancashire to the south and west Midlands will be launched next week as part of a timetable overhaul.
Thousands of passengers are set to benefit from new services connecting Birmingham International, Coventry and Milton Keynes to stations including Preston, which will begin on December 8. The services will also link to Carlisle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Virgin Trains, which runs the services, says the changes will see a huge expansion in capacity, with more than 3,000 seats added every weekday, as the majority of five-car Super Voyager trains are replaced by either double Voyagers (10 cars) or Pendolinos (nine cars or 11 cars).
Twenty four of the 28 Scottish services that currently operate from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Birmingham will be extended to London Euston.
Gary Iddon, Virgin Trains’ general manager for Scotland and North England, said: “This new capacity will allow us to continue the phenomenal growth we’ve seen on the Anglo-Scottish route.
“From winning the West Coast passenger franchise in 1997, we’ve transformed a loss-making train service into the country’s best-loved long-distance operator, doubling passenger numbers in the process.
“This is the biggest change we have made since we revolutionised West Coast services with the Virgin High Frequency timetable in 2009 and creates a number of new, direct journeys to key locations south of Birmingham.
“The step-change in capacity is a sign of the confidence we have that there is more growth in the route and more that we can do to get passengers out of cars and planes and onto our services.”
Between 2008 and 2013, passenger numbers travelling on Virgin Trains’ services between Birmingham and Edinburgh have grown by 235 per cent. Between Glasgow and Birmingham, growth has been 261 per cent.
The timetable changes will also create a number of additional services connecting London to North England and Scotland via Birmingham. Virgin is still bidding to run direct services between Blackpool and London.