The Government has awarded the East Coast Main Line franchise to a consortium involving Virgin and Stagecoach. The operation will commence in March and run for eight years.
Virgin and Stagecoach already operate the West Coast main line and have promised improved services on East Coast.
The terms of the franchise include:
- 23 new services from London to key destinations, with 75 more station calls a day
- More direct trains to London from Bradford, Shipley, Harrogate, Leeds, York and Newcastle
- Plans for direct links to Huddersfield, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Dewsbury and Thornaby
- 3,100 extra seats for the morning peak time by 2020
- 12,200 more seats across the train fleet – a 50% increase
- 65 state-of-the-art express trains by 2018, totalling 500 new carriages
- London-Leeds journey time reduced by 14 minutes, and London-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.
Mike Cartwright of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce said:
“It seems a good deal on the face of it and will end a period of uncertainty. With passenger demand likely to continue to increase, it’s good to see a commitment to additional Bradford-London services, and more seats and reduced travel times on others. In addition, the investment in stations and infrastructure is welcome although long overdue. Bradford needs to be better-connected to the capital as we look to grow and expand and so more direct trains will be a good selling point for the city. We still want to see better quality trans-Pennine services but in terms of the East Coast franchise, this announcement should bring more stability. While it could be argued that the service has been stable since renationalisation in 2009, it was always planned to re-privatise the franchise so no surprises there.”
Other bidders for the franchise included Eurotunnel/Keolis and First Group, which recently lost its First Capital Connect and ScotRail franchises.
The new East Coast company will be called Inter City Railways.