The Department for Transport today confirmed (10 December 2014) it has officially signed the East Coast rail franchise contract with Inter City Railways, a venture between Stagecoach and Virgin.
The 8 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:
- new services from London to key destinations, with 75 more station calls a day
- plans for new direct links to Huddersfield, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Dewsbury and Thornaby
- proposals for more trains to London from Bradford, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Leeds, Lincoln, Newcastle, Shipley, Stirling, and York
- 3,100 extra seats for the morning peak time into and out of King’s Cross by 2020
- 2,200 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, and from London to Edinburgh by 13 minutes
- a £140 million investment package to improve trains and stations
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
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.
Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive of Stagecoach Group, said:
This is a hugely exciting time for the passengers, businesses and communities who benefit from rail services on the East Coast route. Around £140 million 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.
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 Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Huddersfield.
It will also seek approval to run more trains to Edinburgh, Leeds, Lincoln, Shipley, Stirling, 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. The new franchise will provide regular journey times of 2 hours to Leeds and 4 hours to Edinburgh.
Inter City Railways has also given a commitment to reduce all long-distance standard anytime fares by 10%. This could save passengers travelling from Edinburgh to London around £15 on those journeys.
The operator will also develop its own website, smartphone and tablet apps to make door-to-door travel easier for customers, including planning journeys and buying tickets.