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New East Coast mainline franchise confirmed

The Department for Transport today confirmed it has officially signed the East Coast rail franchise contract with Inter City Railways, a venture between Stagecoach and Virgin.

The eight-year deal will give passengers between London and Edinburgh more seats, more services and new trains from March next year.

Under the franchise agreement, Inter City Railways will provide passengers a host of benefits, including:

East Coast Mainline will be run by new company Inter City Railways
  • new services from London to key destinations, with 75 more station calls a day.
  • plans for new direct links to Huddersfield and Dewsbury
  • proposals for more trains to London from Bradford, Harrogate, Leeds, Lincoln, Shipley and York
  • 3,100 extra seats for the morning peak time into and out of King’s Cross by 2020
  • 12,200 additional seats – a 50% increase - across the entire train fleet;65 state-of-the-art Intercity Express trains brought into service from 2018, totalling 500 new carriages
  • reduction of journey times from London to Leeds by 14 minutes
  • a £140 million investment package to improve trains and stations.

“This is a fantastic deal which will give passengers on this vital route more seats, more services and new trains, and give British taxpayers outstanding value for money.

“With the signing of the contract, Stagecoach and Virgin are firmly on track to deliver these improvements.

"The new services have only been made possible by the government’s investment in the railways, a vital part of our long term economic plan.”

– Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin

"This is a hugely exciting time for the passengers, businesses and communities who benefit from rail services on the East Coast route.

"Around £140m will be invested under the new franchise in delivering an improved service and a more personalised travel experience for customers, on top of a whole new fleet of high quality trains.

"While the franchise officially begins in March next year, our team are already planning ahead to build on the strong pride, heritage and success at East Coast.

"In the coming months, we will be working closely with employees and the management team to ensure a smooth transition to the new franchise.

"Stagecoach and our partners Virgin see investing in people and delivering great customer service as key to the future. We look forward to welcoming staff into the Stagecoach and Virgin family and making Virgin Trains East Coast a huge success."

– Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive of Stagecoach Group
East Coast Mainline will be run by new company Inter City Railways

Inter City Railways will pay the government around £3.3 billion to operate the franchise.The company will now begin talks with Network Rail and the Office of Rail Regulation to agree its plans to run new direct services from London to a number of towns including Huddersfield.

It will also seek approval to run more trains to Leeds, Lincoln, Shipley, Harrogate and Bradford.

From 2018, Inter City Railways will take delivery of the new Intercity Express trains, to be assembled at Hitachi’s factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

By 2020 all of the 65 modern high-speed electric trains will be in service and will replace 39 existing trains. In addition to more seats, passengers will benefit from cleaner, more reliable trains and faster journeys.

Rail engineers to strike over pay dispute

Scores of RMT rail engineering staff working for Wabtec at the Doncaster rail works will strike for five days next week in a fight over pay and conditions.

Following a massive “yes” vote for action the union’s Executive Committee has instructed members to strike from 00.01 hours on Monday December 15 and 23.59 hours on Friday December 19.

“RMT members at Wabtec do essential work and at the very least they should expect is a pay rise that reflects their commitment to the company.

" After all, it is the staff that generate the company profits for this large American engineering outfit. “The Doncaster engineering works is part of the history and fabric of the railways in Britain and the engineers working on the site play a crucial role in keeping our trains rolling.

"Their massive vote for action in this fight for workplace justice is a reflection of the anger on the shop floor.

“RMT remains available for talks and we are in no doubt that the determination of our members will remain rock solid as they battle for a fair deal.”

– Mick Cash , GMT General Secretary

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Freedom Festival generated £3.5 million extra expenditure in Hull

As Hull moves closer to its UK City of Culture year in 2017, newly-released data from its flagship cultural event, Freedom Festival, demonstrates the potential impact of the year-long celebration in two years’ time.

The light trail winds its way round the city during Freedom Festival 2014

Official survey statistics from this year’s FreedomFestival, which was attended by an estimated 115,000 people in September, reveal that:

  • The event generated more than £3.5 million additional expenditure in the city over three days - an increase of £1.5 million on last year
  • The event brought people into the city who wouldn’t have been there otherwise - almost two thirds of attendees said they would have stayed at home if the festival had not been on
  • More people than ever visited the city from out of town.Of this year’s attendees, almost half (43%) were from outside of Hull, compared to 34% last year, with 31% coming from the East Riding and 12% visiting from further afield, underlining the city’s growing reputation as a cultural destination
  • Other visitor attractions in the city also reaped the benefits of the festival, with a quarter of attendees (25%) visiting locations such as The Deep or Ferens ArtGallery as part of their trip into the city centre, resulting in approximately 21,800 additional visits to those sites

Shoppers encouraged to support local traders for 'Small Business Saturday'

Shoppers are being encouraged to support independent traders this weekend, in recognition of 'Small Business Saturday.'

Small Business Saturday, which falls on Saturday, 6 December, is a national, non-political campaign which aims to encourage consumers to 'shop local' and support small businesses in their communities.

In Sheffield the city council are supporting the event and special projects such as 'Common People' has seen pop-up shops introduced in areas like the Moor Market and the Winter Garden.

"Sheffield has a real buzz of creativity and we want it to be a place where independent traders and small businesses are given the tools and support they need to thrive.

This Saturday, I would encourage people to see what small businesses have to offer. This could mean anything from buying Christmas presents from the craftspeople, jewellers and designers based around our city, to doing their regular weekly shop at a market rather than the big chains.

– Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield City Council

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ABP seek judicial review over Able Marine Energy Park development

Associated British Ports (ABP) has today announced that it is seeking a Judicial Review (JR) of the Secretary of State for Transport’s decision to grant a Development Consent Order (DCO) in respect of the proposed Able Marine Energy Park (AMEP) on the South Bank of the Humber at Killingholme.

The DCO allowed for the compulsory purchase of a triangle of land, crucial to Able's development, but according to ABP, the last undeveloped land with access to deep water.

ABP says, "Immingham cannot maintain this level of growth without the ability to develop additional deep water cargo handling facilities," and claim that Able adopted an "all-or-nothing approach" to negotiations.

APP says the process of granting Able the land was "seriously flawed" and leaves it with "no alternative but to seek a judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision to approve the seizure of ABP’s land and associated waterfront."

Able UK responded saying ABP's attempt was "spiteful" and only served to make them "even more isolated than they were from virtually every other interest on the Humber."

This latest legal tactic is attempting to overthrow not only the decision of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, who rejected ABP’s petitions before even hearing ABLE’s case’ but also both the hugely detailed and lengthy planning enquiry and then ultimately the decision of the Secretary of State for Transport. Everyone apart from ABP will be hoping that it fails just like all their other attempts to derail the AMEP project and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity it offers to transform the economy of North Lincolnshire and the wider region, as well as playing a central role in meeting the Government’s ambition for establishing the UK as a centre of excellence for renewable energy technologies. ABP really are at the last chance saloon and we see their response as being as spiteful as it is desperate and we remain entirely confident that due process, as it has already, will see through their tiresome and vindictive smoke and mirrors.

– Able UK

Businesses benefit from le Tour success

Yorkshire businesses say they are seeing increased interest following this year's Tour de France stages in the county.

Figures revealed today showed the race brought more than £100 million into the economy.

John Gill from the Bradfield Brewery told ITV Calendar his business was booming after the success of the event:

Gary Verity: Le Tour created life long memories

The man who brought le Tour de France to Yorkshire says that financial figures released today showing the benefits the event brought to the county back up the success of the weekend.

Gary Verity told ITV Calendar that the arrival of the world's biggest cycle race had create memories that would stay with people for their whole lives.

The leader of Leeds City Council said even though running the event went over budget, it was worth the cost:

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