Virgin Trains has launched its brand new services to London from Sunderland and Stirling.
The new services have been launched in response to demands from both business and leisure customers who have been calling for more early morning departures that will give them a longer day in London.
Business, civic and community leaders joined Virgin Trains on-board both inaugural services this morning, with the new Sunderland service being met at London King’s Cross Station by the UK rail minister, Claire Perry, who named the Virgin Train ‘Spirit of Sunderland’.
The new services mark a major milestone in Virgin Trains’ ambitious plans to transform services on its east coast route, which include a £21 million overhaul of its fleet of 45 trains.
More than £40 million has been committed to the fleet since the company launched its east coast services in March, when it spelt out plans to invest £140 million over eight years.
A fleet of 65 brand new Virgin Trains will also be introduced on the east coast from 2018.
The trains will be built by Hitachi at its plant based in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.
David Horne, managing director of Virgin Trains on its east coast route, said: “This is a hugely exciting day for us as we launch more services, and add Sunderland to the Virgin rail map.
“Business and leisure customers have been calling for more early morning departures that will give them a longer day in London, and we’re delighted to be delivering on our promise by launching these new services.”
Perry added: “It is fantastic to see the start of these new services from Sunderland and Stirling. As a one nation government, we know that transport doesn’t just help hardworking people get around, it helps them get on.
“These new services will provide better journeys for customers and boost economic ties between Scotland, the north east and London, stimulating growth and helping rebalance our economy.
“These new services are further proof that the new east coast franchise is delivering real benefits for customers across the UK.
“We are also proud that passengers on the east coast route will also benefit from the introduction of new government supported Intercity Express Programme trains from 2018.”
Virgin Trains is also pleased to announce that from today, it will operate a new evening service between Hull and Doncaster.
The new service will open up new travel opportunities for customers seeking to travel to London.