BRITAIN'S FIRST 125mph tilting train this week set a new record for the journey from London to Manchester, completing the trip in just 1 hour 53 minutes.
The record attempt was launched by Prime Minister Tony Blair and marked the completion of the £3bn first phase of the West Coast Main Line (WCML) upgrade project.
'This is a great day for railways in Britain, ' said Blair.
'Passengers on the west coast route will now benefit from the first phase of investment.'
From Monday Virgin's tilting Pendolino trains will be exploiting the new line speed to cut journey times from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool by around 20%. The trip from London to Manchester will now take 2 hours 6 minutes.
Phase two of the project, to Glasgow, should be complete by December 2005.
Virgin Trains chief executive Chris Green said this marked the start of winning back customers lost to airlines and motorways.
'We need a 30% growth in passenger numbers in the next two years, ' he said.
Green hands over as chief executive next week to his deputy Tony Collins to become non-executive chairman of the Virgin Group (see profile page 46).