Virgin will pay the DfT more than £430m to run the franchise until April 2017 when a new long-term franchise will commence. Virgin was awarded a 23-month management contract in December 2012 following the failure of the bidding process for a new franchise in October 2012. First Group had expected to take over the franchise in December 2012 but the deal was cancelled after flaws were discovered in the DfT's franchising process. The new contract with Virgin is the sixth direct-award deal since March 2013.

Virgin has committed to introduce a twice-daily direct service between London and Shrewsbury despite the failure of its previous attempt to do so, as well a daily service from London to Blackpool.

The DfT says the new contract will deliver £35m in benefits to passengers. Virgin will convert 21 first-class Pendolino coaches to standard class, and invest £5.25m to improve the interiors and catering facilities on the trains. It will spend £20m on stations, introduce free Wi-Fi at stations and improve coverage on trains, and expand the car parks at three stations. Virgin will also work with Network Rail to reduce journey times.