Consortium to buy East Coast trains announced

A consortium involving Sir Richard Branson's train company Virgin Trains has been chosen to run the East Coast main line franchise from next year.

The Department for Transport said the consortium involving Virgin and transport company Stagecoach, who already run the West Coast line, will start the East Coast franchise in March 2015 .

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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.


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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
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New carpets, new seat covers, faster trains - Virgin Group outlines benefits

The Director of Corporate Affairs for the Virgin Group Richard Scott has outlined the benefits which will come from the new east coast train franchise.

He says it will mean faster journeys in refurbished trains. And you'll be abe to order food from your seat with a new phone app, he says.

For Richard Scott's full comments click below.

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We've heard these promises before - RMT

The transport union the RMT has criticised the re-privatisation of the East Coast mainline. North of England representative Craig Johnston said they had heard similar promises before from franchise holders which had not been fulfilled.

For Craig Johnston's full comments click below.

Hull MP says city has been 'left out again'

Hull MP Diana Johnson claims the city has been "left out" of plans to improve the east coast rail network.

Today it was announced the routes would be privatised with a consortium involving Virgin and Stagecoach taking over from March 2015.

Hull MP says city has been 'left out again' Credit: Press Association

Hull has been left out again in this announcement about the East Coast Line. There are no extra Hull-London or Hull-Newcastle services in this privatisation and we’re still threatened with Transpennine route cuts in order to benefit Southern England.

Worse still, there was no further news about getting Hull’s rail electrification done in time for the City of Culture 2017, so that Hull could benefit from new rolling stock that’s been promised for other parts of the country. It wasn’t a promising sign recently when the Deputy Prime Minister appeared unaware that Hull’s upgrade scheme is privately financed!

More generally, taxpayers and the travelling public have been sold short in an East Coast franchising process shouldn’t have happened. East Coast has returned over £800m to the taxpayer and has established itself as one of the best train operating companies in the country.

Rather than rigging the franchise timetable in order to sell it off before the Election, the Government should have been putting the public interest first and working to get a better deal for passengers.

– Diana Johnson MP


MPs call for more Lincolnshire rail services

Two Lincolnshire MPs have welcomed news that the new franchise running East Coast trains will increase services, but say it could go further.

Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh and Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy say new services should include routes to Grimsby:

Labour MP calls for halt in franchise approval

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh has urged the government to put a halt to plans to sell the East Coast trains franchise, despite a consortium involving Stagecoach and Virgin being announced as the new owners.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh has urged the government to put a halt to plans to sell the East Coast trains franchise Credit: Press Association

Ms. Creagh, who was Shadow Secretary of State for Transport until recently, said that the contract had not yet been signed and there was still time for the government to reverse the decision:

The taxpayer and Wakefield rail passengers have been sold down the river by the government. Publicly run East Coast will have returned over £1billion to the taxpayer and is one of the best train operating companies in the country.

The contract has not yet been signed and Labour is calling for the franchise process to be halted. It’s absurd that our own public operator is the only rail company in the world barred from challenging to run its own services.

Labour has challenged this ideological nonsense. We would legislate to allow a not-for-profit public sector operator to take on and challenge train operators on a level playing field.

– Mary Creagh, MP

Transport Secretary: Franchise to serve places which haven't been served before

The Transport Secretary says the new franchise which will take over the running of East Coast trains will bring services to places which have never had them.

Huddersfield, Harrogate, Lincoln and Dewsbury are among the places to be promised new or increased services.

Patrick McLoughlin says it is a good story for the East Coast:

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Unite calls East Coast decision a 'betrayal'

Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, has branded the East Coast decision a 'betrayal'.

A consortium involving Virgin Trains and Stagecoach will run the East Coast main line franchise from next year. The decision marks the return to the private sector for East Coast, which has been run by the Department for Transport since 2009.

"This nakedly political decision to rush through this reprivatisation before the general election is a betrayal of the taxpayers and staff who have made East Coast a success.

"Rail privatisation has spectacularly failed both taxpayers and the travelling public. Rather than one that has glued itself to a failed dogma, we need a government that puts the people and our national bank balance first."

– Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary
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