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Young farmers from around the country gather in Cumbria

A hundred and fifty young farmers from across the country have been gathering near Penrith to look at ways of making it easier to break into the industry.

The 'Fertile Minds' event, organised by Farmers Weekly and Tesco, was open to people aged 18 to 25. They discussed the difficulties and costs of entering farming but said it was a very rewarding career to pursue.

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East Coast: the facts and figures

East Coast train Credit: East Coast

Here are some key facts and figures about East Coast main line rail company.

It has been announced that a consortium involving Virgin Trains and Stagecoach will run the East Coast main line franchise from next year.

  • Passenger journeys have increased by 1.1m in the past five years.
  • Journeys between Scotland and London have increased by 23%.
  • Customer satisfaction has increased from 89% in 2009 to 91% in 2014.
  • Revenue has increased from £581.3m in 2008-2009 to £652.6m to 2013-14.
  • East Coast invested £48m since 2009.
  • The taxpayer has received £1 billion back in premium payments and profits.
  • In partnership with Network Rail, redeveloped Newcastle station through an £8.6 million investment
  • East Coast - based in York - employs 2,800 people based at stations, depots and offices from London to Inverness.
  • East Coast’s Highland Chieftain service is Britain’s longest single continuous train journey operating daily between London and Inverness, a distance of 581 miles, and taking 8 hours and 6 minutes.
  • Since the spring of 2011, East Coast has been recognised by numerous industry organisations, and the Company has been the recipient of 55 such awards

Virgin Trains and Stagecoach to run East Coast main line

Stagecoach and Virgin will run the East Coast mainline franchise from March next year. Credit: ITV Border

Stagecoach and Virgin will run the East Coast mainline franchise from March next year.

The railway line connects London to Scotland, and has been publicly run since 2009. Stations at Edinburgh, Berwick and Newcastle are frequently used by people in the Borders. The deal's worth more than £3 billion and the service will be run by Stagecoach and Virgin from March next year.

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Solfest to return

The family-friendly three day festival will take place at Tarnside Farm near Aspatria. Credit: ITV Border

One of Cumbria's top music festivals is returning.

Solfest didn't run this year, but organisers have announced it'll be back next August. The family-friendly three day festival will take place at Tarnside Farm near Aspatria.

That's a boost for the region's music scene, as last year Cockrock and the Whitehaven Festival were also cancelled.

Royal Mail's universal service obligation 'under threat'

Royal Mail's chief executive says the service which delivers letters anywhere in the UK for the same price six days-a-week is under threat.

The universal service obligation costs the company more than seven billion pounds a year but business owners and politicians in Cumbria and the South of Scotland say it's vital for rural areas and must be maintained. Katie Hunter reports:

Universal service 'uneconomic'

Officials from competitors Whistl and UK Mail denied they were cherry picking work, or that they threatened the universal service. Credit: PA

Royal Mail has said it is committed to a universal service, in a statement, following concerns raised by MP Tim Farron that the recently privatised company could charge more to deliver to rural areas.

However, the head of the Royal Mail has issued a stark warning that the universal service, which allows letters to be posted anywhere in the country for the same price, could be threatened by "cherry picking" from competitors.

Chief executive Moya Greene told MPs that the universal service obligation (USO) cost £7.2 billion a year because of the high cost of delivering post to rural and remote areas of the UK.

She told the Business Select Committee that the USO was "essential" for most people, but it had a high fixed cost and needed internal subsidies to make the economics work.

"Low cost, high density areas are needed to cross subsidise suburbs and rural areas which are much higher cost.

"If you allow cherry picking you undermine the economics."

The decline in letter deliveries is running at 4-6% a year and competitors taking business off the Royal Mail in urban areas was making the USO "uneconomic", she said.

Officials from competitors Whistl and UK Mail denied they were cherry picking work, or that they threatened the universal service.

Royal Mail responds to MP concerns

Cumbrian MP Tim Farron says he's worried that Royal Mail won't continue delivering to remote rural communities in the future. Credit: PA

Cumbrian MP Tim Farron says he's worried that Royal Mail won't continue delivering to remote rural communities in the future. He says that Royal Mail's own report suggest it is looking at the cost.

However, Royal Mail says it is fully committed to the service:

“Royal Mail is fully committed to the six-day-a-week, one-price-goes-anywhere Universal Postal Service to all 29 million UK addresses. We have put in a detailed and comprehensive submission to Ofcom on the dangers posed to the Universal Service by unfettered direct delivery competition. We are asking for Ofcom to bring forward its planned review of direct delivery and put in place measures to address the threat it poses to the financial sustainability of the Universal Service.”

– A spokesperson for Royal Mail
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