Virgin trains are set to make a return to Cumbria after plans were revealed for a new service in competition with Avanti West Coast.

The Virgin Group chief executive has confirmed that the business has submitted an application to the Office of Rail and Road to run as an open access operator alongside Avanti.

Avanti had their contract controversially renewed by the Government last year despite politicians of all parties in Cumbria calling on the Government to strip the company of its franchise.

Virgin aims to undercut Avanti’s prices and trains from London Euston will go to Preston every hour and through Cumbria to Glasgow every two hours.

Virgin used to operate the West Coast Mainline but were blocked from renewing their contract in 2019 because its bid did not meet pension rules, according to the Department for Transport.

Josh Bayliss, the Virgin Group chief executive, said that he was ‘confident’ that customers would back the return of Virgin Trains on the West Coast Mainline.

He said: “We think open access is the way forward. Open access increases consumer choice and competition, both of which Virgin has always supported.

“In the 20 years Virgin Trains operated on the west coast, it reduced journey times considerably, tripled services on key routes and provided an exceptional customer experience while increasing passenger numbers to 42 million a year.

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“We’re confident customers would welcome Virgin Trains back, providing them with much-needed choice and competition.”

The new services are not set to come into operation before the next general election and would still happen if Labour get elected.

Labour have pledged to bring franchise holders, such as Avanti, into public ownership under a British Rail banner should they win the next election, but open access operators will still be able to operate under those plans.