Virgin Train brand extra Harrogate to London services the "real deal"

Richard Branson and the new Virgin trains

Richard Branson and the new Virgin trains

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Virgin Trains confirmed that their promise to revolutionise rail links to London was the “real deal” during a Chamber of Commerce meeting on Monday.

In November 2014, a joint venture by Virgin Trains and Stagecoach was announced by the Government as the winners of the East Coast Main Line services.

As part of their bid, Virgin Trains promised to introduce 14 daily services between London and Harrogate from May 2019 as well as a raft of further improvements.

During the meeting held at the Crown Hotel, Suzanne Donnelly, commercial director as Virgin Trains East Coast, confirmed that the company was still committed to following through on their ambitious plans.

She said: “This is the real deal for Harrogate. We’ve already got the access rights secured from 2019 thanks to successful lobbying of the ORR with the Chamber’s help.

“We are absolutely committed to running these extra direct services every two hours and I’m sure that they will be really good for the local economy

“We’re going to be introducing upgraded interiors, more reliable services, more seats, more luggage space and a new Virgin Azuma fleet from 2018.

“These brand spanking new, high-quality trains will mean twenty minute faster journeys, increased resilience in terms of engineering and an all-round improved travelling experience.”

In September, Virgin Trains announced they would be running additional services from London to Harrogate for visitors hoping to attend the Christmas Market.

The company will offer low-priced fairs on the special services on Saturday November 19 and Sunday November 20.

Ms Donnelly said that the move represented a “fantastic opportunity” to help support the Christmas Market, working in tandem with the local community.

She said: “We believe there’s a big opportunity for growth in this region and we are always looking for opportunities to help boost it.”

Harrogate’s exciting transport future was set out by Ms Donnelly as well as other key figures from air, rail and bus services at the Chamber’s annual Traffic and Transport update.

Tony Hallwood provided an update on growth and development at Leeds Bradford Airport whilst Alex Hornby explained Transdev’s latest projects and future plans for the 36 bus service.

Northern Rail’s Paul Barnfield also updated members on the new franchise on the network which included doubling the frequence of Harrogate to Leeds services and getting rid of the dreaded “pacer trains”.