In 2002, Virgin Trains in the UK began operating custom-designed Pendolino trains known as the Class 390 on its West Coast Main Line (WCML) franchise. The 53 9-car trains were constructed by Alstom and are leased by Virgin Trains from Angel Trains.
Owing to the failure of the WCML upgrade to provide in-cab signalling, these units are limited in service to 125 mph (200 km/h) operation rather than their 140 mph (225 km/h) design speed. In 2006, Virgin Trains announced that, over the following three years, they would be examining the possibility of running the trains at 135 mph (215 km/h) through the Trent Valley as part of their new WCML Franchise Proposal.
An Alstom Class 390 Pendolino in Birmingham
The Class 390 Pendolino were maintained by Alstom (West Coast Traincare) under contract to Virgin Trains until 2012. The main maintenance locations are Wembley, Midlands (Oxley, Wolverhampton), Manchester (Longsight) and Glasgow (Polmadie), as well as Liverpool (for minor work only) and several "Traincare Points" along the line of route (such as Euston and Carlisle). Headquarters for West Coast Traincare moved from the former Metro-Cammell factory at Washwood Heath in Birmingham upon its closure in November 2005 to Manchester Longsight depot with some functions being based at a new office facility at Oxley depot.
In 2008 DfT announced that 31 of the existing 9-car sets would be lengthened to 11 cars to increase capacity. Four new 11-car sets were also to be built. Angel Trains ordered the vehicles from Alstom in September 2008. Virgin Rail Projects has been selected to introduce the new trains. The longer units would require major infrastructure changes to allow stations and depots to accommodate the 11-car units.