FIRSTGROUP will replace Virgin Rail as operator of the West Coast main line.

It was confirmed this week that the First, the majority partner in a joint venture with the Italian state operator Trenitalia, will take over services on the London to Glasgow line, which serves Oxenholme station, from December.

Virgin has operated the line since privatisation in 1997, but its bid to renew the franchise was rejected following a wrangle over employee pension provision.

The news comes in a week when it was announced that rail fares are to rise by 2.8 per cent in the new year.

And the Firstgroup announcement also coincided with the full introduction of the new 195 class train units on the Lakes Line.

The operation of the units has long been awaited by passenger groups who have welcomed the introduction of the trains.

However, there have been a number of teething problems this week which dampened the air of excitement for passengers on the 10 mile Oxenholme to Windermere branch.

At least two of the new units failed on Monday, the first full day of the 195s' operation, forcing replacements to be ushered into use and some journeys to be disrupted.

In addition, there have also been a number of technical problems reported with the trains, in particular with the automatic doors.

And several passengers reported a problem with the toilet doors caused by the incline of the line in the area of Staveley station.

However, Robert Talbot, chair of the Lakes Line User Group, said the 195 units were a welcome addition despite these initial problems.

"There have been a few teething problems but hopefully they will be solved shortly and we certainly welcome their full introduction," he said.

However, Mr Talbot did highlight some concerns at services over the forthcoming August Bank Holiday weekend which will, as has been the case on previous bank holiday holiday weekends this year, be affected by planned engineering work.

He pointed out that some journey times would be extended and also that a number of departure times from London Euston would change over the weekend.

Mr Talbot said to the best of his knowledge, neither Virgin Trains nor Network Rail had printed any information for stations in the form of posters or leaflets in respect of these timetable alterations, and he urged passengers to check their train times as far as possible and ensure they planned their journey carefully.