A new deal that secures Virgin trains serving Milton Keynes Central on the West Coast Mainline for a further three years has been signed.
It’s been announced today the government handed Virgin the three-year deal today, which will see free wifi coming to standard carriages and - at long last - the number of first class carriages will be reduced in order to free up an extra 5,500 standard seats a day across the franchise.
Andrew Pakes, Labour & Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate for Milton Keynes South, wants to see the franchise system reformed to provide a public service test with transparency over costs and value for money for passengers.
“At long last the government appears to be listening passengers about the need to improve the quality of services and invest in the future of the franchise,” said Mr Pakes.
“I am really pleased that we are going to see free wifi in standard carriages and a cut in empty first class carriages, something I have been calling for.
“Being able to work or check your smart phone is such a part of day-to-day life it is wrong that the current free wifi service only comes in first class.
“But we also have to remember where these changes have come from. This new extension will add £35 million of passenger benefits, yet the government wasted over £40 million of taxpayers money in 2012 after it had to drop the last botched franchise competition for the service due to problems at the Department for Transport.
“We need a long-term plan to secure better services for Milton Keynes and value for money fares for passengers. Our rail network is a public service and we need to ensure taxpayers and passengers are getting value for money as well as better services.”
Milton Keynes Central could also see another six return services a day to London by 2016 as a new operator was also given the green light to introduce a daily London-Blackpool service.
Great North Western Rail (GNWR) have been granted permission to use open access rules to introduce the new services adding more trains for Milton Keynes and greater competition on the West Coast Mainline.
Mr Pakes added: “This sounds like more good news for Milton Keynes with extra services to London and the north on the cards and greater competition for passengers.
“With prices still rising faster than wages it is essential, however, that the cost of these changes are transparent and not paid for off the back of ticket prices.”
Councillor Robert Middleton, Cabinet Member for Growth, said: “As Cabinet Member for Growth, I am committed to ensuring that our city continues to prosper.
“With the completion of East West rail in 2019, alongside these improvements for services from MK Central, we will soon be the centre of a South East’ transport hub.
“Whether you’re a business traveller, or a daytripper, I will be working to ensure these services create a benefit for all.”