Stephen Sutton and me

"To name but a few."

Avanti West Coast Communications Manager, Richard Stanton, talks about train namings, and how one in particular brings a smile to his face. 

Avanti West Coast's Richard Stanton explains how train names should reflect the people and the communities served by the West Coast route. 

20 June 2023

“Good morning, Stephen,” I say to myself as I board the 09:47 from Birmingham New Street to London Euston. My charge for the trip – one of Avanti West Coast’s iconic tilting Pendolino trains.

The number 390002. Now that probably won’t mean anything to you, but it always brings a smile to my face as several years ago I was part of the team that named the train ‘Stephen Sutton’.

You may remember him. The Burntwood teenager who had an incurable cancer endeared himself to the nation, his ‘thumbs up’ message an inspiration to so many. He sadly lost his life aged just 19, but not before he had raised millions for Teenage Cancer Trust.

‘Stephen’ has travelled the length and breadth of the west coast route in the intervening time, clocking up over one million miles. Obligatory selfie of me in front of the nameplate sent to his mum Jane, I take my seat. Less than 80 minutes later, Stephen has transported me safely to the capital and is ready for its next trip to Manchester.

"In differing ways those names reflect the people and communities we serve on the West Coast Main Line."

Train fact for you. Around 30 Pendolinos currently carry a name. They range from the traditional, such as ‘City of Edinburgh’ and ‘City of Preston’ to the more reflective. ‘Bee Together’ was named in memory of those who lost their lives tragically at the Manchester Arena. But there’s also the more comedic, the readers of the Liverpool Echo voting to name one of our trains ‘Flying Scouseman’. And one of my favourites, ‘Lady Godiva’, a nod to Coventry’s recent City of Culture status.

In differing ways those names reflect the people and communities we serve on the West Coast Main Line. So the next time you’re travelling with us why not see if your Pendolino is named. And if you think there’s a perfect name that’s missing from our fleet, be sure to get in touch. We do get lots of suggestions though, so make sure it’s a good one.

And if you see ‘Stephen’, say hello to him for me.

Main image: Richard Stanton, Avanti West Coast Team Communications Manager taking a selfie of Stephen's train at Birmingham New Street.