FirstGroup and Trenitalia UK

This train operating company superseded Virgin Trains on December 8 2019, as operator of the West Coast Main Line (WCML), serving 48 stations of which it manages 16.

Department for Transport has replaced the former Inter City West Coast (ICWC) franchise with the West Coast Partnership, to operate the UK’s busiest long-distance main line network, linking London with Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, North Wales, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The partnership includes a second phase, projected to be from March 2026 until March 31 2031, covering the initial period of operating High Speed 2 alongside a reshaped WCML service.

A replacement operator was announced on August 14 2019, and on December 8, 2019 the consortium of FirstGroup (70%) and Trenitalia UK (30%) took over existing WCML operations from Virgin Trains under the brand name Avanti West Coast (AWC). On December 6 2019, AWC announced a contract for Hitachi to supply 13 five-car bi-mode and 10 seven-car electric trainsets to enter service in 2022, replacing the Voyager fleet and supplementing the Pendolinos.

Virgin Trains was the original ICWC franchisee, starting operations on March 9 1997, and was a joint venture of Stagecoach and Virgin Group. 

1st Floor
Victoria Square House
Victoria Square
Birmingham B2 4DN


Passenger journeys
37·475 million*
7388·3 million
35·3 million
Information year

Company size


Network data

1435 mm
1310 km (Network Rail owns route)
25 kV 50 Hz (all except Crewe – Chester – Wrexham/North Wales, and Wolverhampton – Shrewsbury)
Rolling stock
56 Electric high-speed trainsets (Cl.390 Pendolino: 35 x 11-car, 21 x 9-car)
20 Diesel high-speed trainsets (Cl.221 Super Voyager, 20 x 5-car)*

*to be replaced by 13 x 5-car (Cl.805, bi-mode), 10 x 7-car (Cl.807, electric only) Hitachi AT300 trains