Working in partnership with Stagecoach, French National Railways (SNCF) and Alstom, Virgin would operate 24 services per day between London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street. The service, which is forecast to generate around £50m of revenue each year  will include intermediate stops at Lichfield Trent Valley, Tamworth, Nuneaton and Liverpool South Parkway.

Virgin Trains says the initiative is separate to the Inter-City West Coast (ICWC) franchise, which it currently operates with Stagecoach. In May, Stagecoach, SNCF and Virgin launched legal action against the Department for Transport after their disqualification from the competition for the West Coast Partnership (WCP) franchise (the successor to ICWC) “for submitting non-compliant bids, principally in respect of pensions risk.”

Virgin Trains says the new services would be unique in the British rail sector, as every ticket would be guaranteed to be at least 10% cheaper than equivalent tickets offered by rail competitors. Each ticket would also include a seat reservation for a particular service, meaning every passenger would be guaranteed a seat.

“The Virgin Trains service would be the only rail service in Britain to guarantee no overcrowding in normal operations,” the company said in a statement. “If there was disruption on the rail network and services were busier than normal, any passengers who couldn’t get a seat would get a full refund of their ticket.” Passengers would also benefit from free Wi-Fi on all services, as well as free films and TV on board and an ‘at-seat’, on-demand catering service. In the event of a delay, every passenger would receive automatic ‘delay repay’ compensation without having to lodge a claim.