Two regional dailies have celebrated their part in restoring a direct rail link between their patches and London.
Both the Shropshire Star and The Gazette, Blackpool, saw their respective campaigns bear fruit as trains rolled out of Shrewsbury and Blackpool North railway stations bound for the capital.
Virgin Trains had been attempting to get the services up and running since last year – with both titles mounting separate campaigns to complement the plans, which were initially rejected by Network Rail.
A 5,000-name petition in support of the proposal was presented by The Gazette to the Office of Rail Regulation with a similar 3,000 name petition presented in Parliament by the Star.
The first Euston-bound train left Shrewsbury on Sunday, while the restored Blackpool to London service, which had been axed in May 2003, saw its first passengers climb aboard on Monday morning.
In addition, a competition among Star readers saw its new train named The Wreakin Giant following a public vote.
Both newspapers received praise from Virgin for their part in getting the services up and running.
Graham Leech, Virgin Trains’ commercial executive director, said of The Gazette’s campaign: “I know how much this means to people in the area and I have to thank the community and The Gazette for their support to get it reinstated.
“We wanted to do this years ago but circumstances did not allow, but we are glad to be able to launch the service.”
A mounted nameplate from Virgin bearing the name of The Wreakin Giant, a local landmark, was accepted by Star editor Martin Wright on behalf of its readership.
Said Martin: “It’s absolutely fantastic that the new service is finally under way.
“I know that a huge amount of hard work has gone on behind the scenes in making the launch possible and we are grateful to Virgin Trains for helping to restore this important link to the capital.
“I would also like to thank the readers of the Shropshire Star who have shown tremendous support for our campaign, first in signing our petition and latterly in the huge response we had when we asked for their help in naming the new train.
“I’m delighted to see The Wrekin Giant running – hopefully it will become a fixture on the Shropshire landscape, much like the landmark it’s named after.”