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ORR approved direct rail links from Blackpool and Shrewsbury to London

The Office of Rail Regulation has today approved direct rail services to run from both Blackpool and Shrewsbury to London Euston.

The new services are extensions to Virgin Trains West Coast Main Line routes and will commence in December this year.

Lead executive for Virgin Trains, Phil Whittingham, said: “It’s an exciting time for everyone involved with Virgin Trains. With our extended franchise we are able to get back to doing what we do best, offering new journey opportunities whilst still delivering the same high standards of service to our customers.

“We have worked hard with our industry partners to gain the approval for these new services. Special thanks must go to the ORR, Network Rail and the Department for Transport. We thank them all for this big vote of confidence.”

Shrewsbury will see two services in each direction on a weekday, departing at 06:39 and 15:24. With arrival times in Euston at 09:15 and 17:56 the services will call at Telford Central, Wellington, Wolverhampton, Birmingham New Street, Birmingham International, Coventry and Rugby (morning service only).  Services back to Shropshire leave Euston at 10:23 and 18:23, arriving in Shrewsbury at 12:58 and 20:55 respectively.

Blackpool North will also benefit from the introduction of a daily trip to London Euston from Monday to Friday.  The service will depart at 05:25 and is due to call also at Kirkham & Wesham, Poulton le Flyde, Preston, Wigan North Western, Warrington Bank Quay, Crewe and Nuneaton before arriving in London at 08:34.  The return service from London Euston departs at 16:33 and arrives back in Blackpool at 19:31.

The Shrewsbury service will commence on Sunday 14 December 2014 with the Blackpool operation starting 24 hours later on Monday 15 December 2014.

ORR chief executive, Richard Price, said: “ORR has approved an application from Virgin Trains to extend some of its existing services operating between London and the Midlands, to provide direct trains to Shrewsbury and Blackpool from December 2014.

“Today’s announcement is good news for passengers travelling between London and both Shrewsbury and Blackpool, who will have the option of an easier and more efficient journey without having to change trains.”

A spokesman for Network Rail said that the new link between London and Blackpool and Shrewsbury will be a valuable addition to the services which already connect both towns to the rest of the rail network, providing greater business and leisure opportunities, and that a link to the capital will help support local economic growth.

The approval comes just as Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson announced a £50m investment to improve West Coast services. It includes £20m for station improvements, £3m for new on-board catering equipment and improvements to on-board wi-fi.

Speaking at the announcement event, Sir Richard said: “We have even more ambitious plans to delight every customer who travels with us, whether that’s through being able to offer thousands of extra seats or new services to Blackpool and Shrewsbury. It’s our people who will help make this happen, as we aim to make every journey on a Virgin train as close to perfect as we possibly can.”

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