The West Coast Partnership franchise has been operated by Avanti West Coast since December 2019. The franchise includes long-distance services on the West Coast Main Line and will cover future HS2 services. It replaced the former InterCity West Coast franchise, which has been operated by Virgin Trains since 1997. Avanti West Coast is 70% owned by FirstGroup and 30% by Trenitalia, the national rail operator in Italy. FirstGroup also operates the Great Western Railway and TransPennine Express franchises as well as the South Western Railway franchise in a joint venture with MTR Corporation. Trenitalia also operates the c2c franchise alone. Avanti West Coast is a UK train operating company owned by FirstGroup (70%) and Trenitalia (30%) and which started operating the West Coast Partnership franchise on 8 December 2019. It replaced Virgin Trains, which had operated the franchise since 1997. Railway franchise agreements will be suspended in order to prevent railway companies from collapsing because of the coronavirus, the Ministry of Transport (DfT) has announced. This reason has no justification: “It is important that we are able to publish the Avanti West Coast franchise agreement in a way, form and time of our own choosing.” Several schedule changes are expected to be made during the franchise.
 While some FirstGroup franchises face financial challenges, the financial model of the West Coast Partnership is expected to be stable. Phil Whittingham, Managing Director of Virgin Trains since 2013, becomes Managing Director of the InterCity West Coast Passenger Train Operating Division of the new franchise. . . .