A total of £35 million-worth of passenger benefits are being promised as Virgin was re-awarded the West Coast rail contract for services between London, Scotland and Wales.


The deal, which will run for two years and nine months, will see 21 first-class carriages converted to standard class, providing 5,500 extra standard seats a day.


Free wi-fi will be made available at stations and improved coverage across the fleet.


More than £20 million will be spent on modernising and enhancing stations, including improving waiting rooms, seats and shelters.


A further £2.5 million will go to improving interiors of the Pendolino train fleet, as well as £2.75 million spent on improving catering facilities.


Virgin will also start work to secure new direct services between Shrewsbury, Blackpool and London from December.


Under the plans Shrewsbury would have two services in each direction Monday to Saturday and one service in each direction on Sunday. Blackpool would have one service in each direction Monday to Friday.


The Guild of Travel Management Companies earlier this week called for increased competition on the UK rail network and new services to Blackpool and Huddersfield.


The new agreement will run until April 2017 when a new competed long-term franchise is expected to commence, the Department for Transport said.


Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, announcing the Virgin contract today, said: “This deal will provide thousands more seats and better journeys for the tens of thousands of passengers who use these services every day.


“The West Coast provides a vital artery between London and Scotland and it is crucial we do everything we can to improve services on this much-used route.


“This is further proof of our commitment to get the best deal for passengers and taxpayers with Virgin set to pay more than £430 million to run the franchise. It’s all part of our long-term economic plan to drive forward our economy and provide better services now and great services with HS2.”


Virgin Trains executive co-chairman Patrick McCall said: “This deal is great news for passengers and taxpayers, with significant benefits for our customers as well as a big increase in the money we pay to government.


“We know wi-fi is high on our customers’ priorities and we’re delighted that we’re going to be able to offer them free and super-fast wi-fi.


“Together with thousands of extra seats and plans for new services, this deal will mean big improvements for millions of Virgin Trains passengers.”