Commuters from Sleaford will see rail journeys between London and Edinburgh transformed by more seats, more services and new trains after the government announced its intention to award the new East Coast main line franchise to Inter City Railways, a consortium of Stagecoach and Virgin, today (November 27).
The new deal will include a host of extra benefits for passengers including: 23 new services from London to key destinations, with 75 more station calls a day, 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 (across the entire train fleet there will be 12,200 additional seats – a 50 per cent increase).
Sixty-five state of the art Intercity Express trains will be brought into passenger service from 2018, totalling 500 new carriages, reducing journey times from London to Leeds by 14 minutes, and from London to Edinburgh by 13 minutes.
The deal will involve a £140 million investment package to improve trains and stations.
At Grantham station, where most passengers connect with the main line, it will see the introduction of open plan ticketing making staff more visible at stations from 2018, additional cycle parking spaces from July 2017, new electric vehicle charging points, upgraded train interiors introduced between 2015 and 2017. The new trains brought in by 2020 will also guarantee more reliable services, more luggage space, improved wi-fi and mobile coverage.
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.
“I believe Stagecoach and Virgin will not only deliver for customers but also for the British taxpayer.”
Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive of Stagecoach Group, said: “A passion for customers, employees and the community is at the heart of our plans for the franchise.
“We have some fantastic ideas to deliver a more personal travel experience for customers. Investing in the committed people who will make that happen is a big part of our plans, giving opportunities for them to develop and grow into more senior roles. At the same time, we have developed major programmes to help young people, communities and small businesses along what is one of Britain’s major rail routes.”
Over the eight-year franchise, Inter City Railways will invest £140 million to bring extra benefits for passengers.
Over the next eight years Inter City Railways will pay the government around £3.3 billion to operate the franchise.
The company will shortly begin talks with Network Rail and the Office of Rail Regulation to seek approval to run more trains to Lincoln.
By 2020 all of the 65 modern high-speed electric trains will be in service and will replace 39 existing trains.
Inter City Railways has also given a commitment to reduce all long-distance standard anytime fares by 10 per cent. This could save passengers travelling from Edinburgh to London around £15.
The operator will also develop its own website, smartphone and tablet apps that will make door-to-door travel easier for customers, including planning journeys and buying tickets.
Inter City Railways will take over the franchise from Sunday March 1, 2015.