East Coast rail franchise chosen


Published: Thursday 27th November 2014 by The News Editor

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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 (DfT) 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 .

The award of the new franchise marks a return to the private sector for East Coast which has been run by the DfT since 2009 following the withdrawal of National Express.

Labour and transport unions had fought to keep East Coast in the public sector, pointing to the good returns it has made to the Treasury.

There has been speculation that a consortium of Eurotunnel and French company Keolis which is 70% owned by French state railway SNCF, had been chosen as the new East Coast operator.

But Eurotunnel/Keolis have now missed out, as have the other shortlisted bidder, FirstGroup (correct) which has recently also lost its First Capital Connect and ScotRail franchises.

The new operator of the London to Scotland East Coast route will be called Inter City Railways.

Under the terms of the eight-year franchise there will be:

:: 23 new services from London to key destinations, with 75 more station calls a day

:: Plans for 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 by 2020

:: A cross the entire train fleet there will be 12,200 additional seats – a 50% increase

:: 65 state-of-the-art Intercity Express trains brought into passenger service from 2018, totalling 500 new carriages

:: Journey times from London to Leeds reduced by 14 minutes, and from London to Edinburgh by 13 minutes

:: A £140 million investment package to improve trains and stations

Over the next eight years Inter City Railways will pay the Government around £3.3 billion to operate the franchise.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: This is a fantastic deal for passengers and for staff on this vital route. It gives passengers more seats, more services and new trains.

“We are putting passengers at the heart of the service. I believe Stagecoach and Virgin will not only deliver for customers but also for the British taxpayer.

“This Government knows the importance of our railways. That is why they are a vital part of our long-term economic plan, with over £38 billion being spent on the network over the next five years.”

Stagecoach group chief executive Martin Griffiths said: ” A passion for customers, employees and the community is at the heart of our plans for the franchise. We want to build on the quality and pride of the people who will be joining our team.”

Virgin Group senior partner Patrick McCall said: “We’re delighted to have been chosen. Our long-term partnership with Stagecoach has seen a revolution in customer service standards, great product innovation, reduced journey times and improved timetables on the West Coast mainline.

“We plan to deliver similar success on the East Coast.”

National Express’s pull-out from the East Coast franchise had been preceded by the withdrawal of another private sector operator of the line, GNER.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, said the reprivatisation of the line was “a national disgrace and an act of utter betrayal”.

He added: “It is simply ludicrous to even contemplate reprivatisation when not only have there been two previous private sector failures on the East Coast route but when the public sector rescue operation has been such a stunning success.”

Published: Thursday 27th November 2014 by The News Editor

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