Virgin pledges tilt trains for West Coast
The pledge came as the deadline was reached for submitting bids for the 15-year franchise. Two other groups have put in bids - James Sherwood's Sea Containers, which operates the East Coast Mainline, and Stagecoach, which won the SouthWest Trains franchise.
The bidders were each required to submit two bids - one involving tilting trains and the other based on refurbishing the existing trains or replacing them with conventional rolling stock.
Virgin, which is buying pounds 250m worth of rolling stock for its Cross Country Trains franchise, said its preference was for the tilting train option.
Railtrack has already undertaken to spend pounds 1.3bn upgrading the line in any event and will invest a further pounds 150m if the Government's franchising director, John O'Brien selects a bid using tilting trains.
The plan is to cut journey times so that London-Manchester would take only two hours, 30 minutes faster than at present. This could be achieved either by using tilting trains which need to brake less or by straightening parts of the line. The new rolling stock is due to enter service in 2002.
Although arguably Britain's prestige line, the West Coast mainline is heavily loss-making. It is receiving a subsidy this year of pounds 92m compared with revenues of pounds 219m a year. Its rolling stock is among the oldest on the rail network.
Despite the failure of British Rail's Advanced Passenger Train, which also featured tilting technology, and the crash in Italy earlier this month of a Pendolino tilting train with many fatalities, these trains have the best safety record of any modern rolling stock. They are in use in eight countries on the Continent including Germany, Portugal, Spain, France and Switzerland.
Woolwich terror attack: Suspect Michael Adebowale saw friend 'literally sliced to pieces' in 2008
Emergency landing at Heathrow sparks further controversy over London airport capacity
Unrest may spread across Europe, warns Red Cross chief
EDL marches on Newcastle as attacks on Muslims increase tenfold in the wake of Woolwich machete attack which killed Drummer Lee Rigby
You want to get an Eton scholarship? All you need to do is answer four (not so simple) questions
- 1 What, let gays get married? We must be bonkers
- 2 Rocky Horror star Tim Curry 'suffers major stroke'
- 3 Exclusive: How MI5 blackmails British Muslims
- 4 EDL marches on Newcastle as attacks on Muslims increase tenfold in the wake of Woolwich machete attack which killed Drummer Lee Rigby
- 5 Farewell, Shameless. Your heirs have work to do
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.