Virgin Trains has said it will bid for the right to run services between Birmingham and London after the Government announced longer franchises.
The firm, which has operated the West Coast Main Line since 1997, said a 14-year deal will allow it to make investment which will mean relieving the pressure on its overcrowded trains.
Details of the bid for the lucrative contract are being kept under wraps because rivals are expected to emerge.
But Virgin said it is confident of persuading the Department for Transport that it is the most likely candidate to continue building demand.
Virgin Rail Group’s chief executive Tony Collins said the firm will point to its track record of doubling passenger numbers on the line in the last six years alone.
“Virgin Trains has doubled the number of customers in the last six years - to 28 million - and has been the fastest growing franchise in that time,” said Mr Collins.
“That is a direct result of the bold investment decisions taken at the start of the current franchise when it was decided to replace the entire fleet of trains, upgrade the track and add many extra train services.
“It is also down to the hard work and commitment of our people, who have shown the benefits for customers of longer franchises and this has clearly been recognised by the Government.
“We intend to submit a strong and deliverable bid to retain the franchise and continue the investment, innovation and customer service that have given us record customer satisfaction scores.”
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced this week that the next franchise will run from its end date of 2012 until 2026, when services are planned to start running on the £20 billion high speed link between London and Birmingham.
The standard franchise length in the UK had previously been seven years.
The announcement included a pledge to reform the rail industry and save up to £1 billion a year without cutting services.
Virgin’s public affairs manager Allan McLean said that specific elements of the company’s proposal would remain secret until bids are unveiled next year but said there was potential for adding both extra carriages and more frequent services.
Services between London Euston and Birmingham New Street are so over-subscribed at peak times that passengers are often turned away from trains or find themselves standing for the entire journey.
“In terms of increasing capacity, we run a three-trains-per-hour model but believe that there is scope to increase that,” he said.
“The nine-car trains that we run at the moment will be increased to 11 cars and that will make a big difference.
“That will add another 150 seats in standard class, on top of the 296 on the Pendolino.”
Mr McLean said that it was crucial to develop demand between Birmingham and London between now and 2026 so that a strong market exists for high speed rail.
He said that there was “fine-tuning” which could be carried out on sections of the track to cut journey times further between the Midlands and the South.
Virgin has been quick to dismiss claims from the business community that journey times between London and Birmingham have not fallen significantly since the 1970s, compared to destinations in the north of England.
It said that since it took over the franchise, typical journeys to Birmingham have fallen from 100 minutes to 84 minutes.
As spokesman also hit back at claims from Rail Minister Theresa Villiers that it has refused to use a brand new Pendolino train.
The tilting train could now sit in a depot until the start of the new franchise in 2012.
Virgin had previously proposed that it would run the new train and additional new carriages if it was allowed a two-year extension on the franchise until 2014.
But the plan was rejected and other rail firms have been told that the Pendolino is available for use once it has finished being tested next July.