AS Virgin Trains' operation of the West Coast main line ends this week, a South Lakeland rail passenger body has expressed its appreciation of the company's operation of the route.

The Lakes Line User Group, (LLUG) the organisation representing residents using the Oxenholme to Windermere line, which connects to the West Coast main line, said in a letter to the company that Virgin had "transformed " the rail experience for many passengers.

"We are very sad to note its passing into railway history," said the LLUG letter.

Virgin Trains took over operation of the route, which runs from London to Glasgow and passes through the heart of South Lakeland, shortly after the company was formed in 1997.

However, earlier this year Stagecoach, which had led the Virgin bid to renew the franchise, was disqualified from the bidding process due to a dispute with the Department of Transport over pension liabilities.

And in August, the First Trenitalia consortium was awarded the West Coast Partnership contract.

They announced that the new operation would be named 'Avanti West Coast,' and the body will take over all Virgin services from this Sunday, December 8.