LIVE: Launch of new Virgin Trains service from Sunderland to London

The Spirit of Sunderland, which left the city's railway station for the first time this morning.
The Spirit of Sunderland, which left the city's railway station for the first time this morning.
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Today a new service is on track to improve Sunderland’s links with the Capital.

This morning a Virgin train left Sunderland Station for London Kings’ Cross in the first of the transport giant’s daily services from Wearside to London.

LIVE: Click here to see live updates, photos and videos as reporter Katy Wheeler (@katyjourno) makes the first journey

The new direct service marks the roll-out of newly refurbished trains and will see Virgin trains depart from Sunderland each weekday at 5.40am.

Arriving in London at 9.08am and returning at 8pm, the Spirit of Sunderland service is aimed at business travellers and day-trippers.

To get to know their new destination, Virgin Trains staff had a trip to the Stadium of Light to meet Black Cat striker Fabio Borini and midfielder Lee Cattermole.

The Virgin Trains team also visited landmarks Penshaw Monument, Roker lighthouse and Sunderland Empire.

David Horne, managing director at Virgin Trains on its east coast route, said: “We believe that creating a direct link between London and Sunderland will mean travellers can get the most out of their journeys to the Capital, whether for business or leisure.

“This route will also this month see the roll out of the newly-refurbished trains that mark the latest step in over £40 million of investment we’re making to upgrade all our services.

“That means we’re enabling people to enjoy the comfort of our trains and to arrive in style ready for the start of the working day, without having to change, for the first time in decades.

“A direct link to Sunderland is just the latest step in our plans for cities on the East Coast line, creating more direct connections, cutting travel times and making journeys more comfortable – bringing the Virgin Trains experience to as many travellers as possible.”

The new service connects with the east coast mainline, with trains calling at Newcastle, Durham, Darlington, York and Peterborough.

The starting price for a return ticket on the new service is £68.