Virgin Trains is preparing to introduce 35 additional services per week between London and Blackpool next month, following electrification of the route by Network Rail.
Launching on Monday, 21st May, ahead of Blackpool’s peak tourism season, the electric Pendolino services will strengthen connections to and from the city six days a week, providing eight direct services each weekday and six services on a Saturday.
The move has been hailed as a “step change in connectivity” by tourism leaders and follows Virgin Trains’ move to reintroduce direct rail services to London in 2014.
The extra weekday services between Blackpool North and London Euston (three northbound and three southbound) will also call at Rugby, Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan North Western and Preston.
In addition to five Saturday services between Blackpool and London (two northbound; three southbound), Virgin Trains is set to operate a service from Birmingham on Saturdays, offering the West Midlands a direct service to Blackpool for the first time in 15 years.
The boost in services will generate an additional 16,900 seats a week* as the seaside resort welcomes three new major attractions – ICON (the UK’s first double launch rollercoaster); elephant house at Blackpool Zoo; and Marvel Comics super-heroes attraction at Madame Tussauds.
This is the first time the long-distance train operator will serve Blackpool with its electric-powered tilting Pendolino trains, which follows the completion of Network Rail’s work to electrify the line between Blackpool and Preston and lengthen platforms at Blackpool North station to allow the longer Pendolino trains to travel to and from the resort.
Testing of the infrastructure is due to take place over the coming weeks in the run-up to the launch of the first services.
Peter Broadley, Executive Director of Customer, Operations and Safety at Virgin Trains on the west coast, said: “At Virgin Trains we’re really excited to be strengthening our links to and from Blackpool with our Pendolino trains. Since introducing a direct service between Blackpool and London over three years ago, journeys have continued to grow and we would like to thank the people of Blackpool for their support. We look forward to welcoming people on-board the new services when they launch and helping boost the local communities we serve along the route.”
Martin Frobisher, route managing director for Network Rail’s London North Western route, said: “During the closure we’ve worked round-the-clock to upgrade and electrify the line to provide passengers with better services on this important route. Rail journeys to and from Blackpool will be transformed with more seats and services and I would like to thank passengers who have remained patient with us throughout the upgrade.”
Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said: “The additional services are indeed good news and a welcome boost to the local area. I know local people have had to put up with a lot of disruption with these improvements, but with more trains to London and elsewhere, running on electric lines, speeding up journey times and reducing noise, I think this will prove an opportunity to increase business and visitor numbers in the town and the wider Fylde Coast.”
Cllr Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council said: “We are delighted that the completion of the electrification project is bringing immediate benefits. The introduction of these new Virgin services connects Blackpool to the two largest cities in the country – and that can only be good for the leisure market, business tourism and potential inward investment. It brings a real step-change in connectivity for Blackpool.”
Virgin Trains reintroduced direct services between Blackpool North and London Euston in December 2014 – with one northbound and one southbound service on weekdays. The 05.30 Blackpool North – London Euston and 16.33 London Euston – Blackpool North will continue to serve Kirkham & Wesham and Poulton-le-Fylde.