The Department for Transport today (December 10) confirmed it has officially signed the East Coast rail franchise contract with Inter City Railways, a venture between Stagecoach and Virgin.
The deal is for eight years, and sees ICR pay £3.3 billion in premium payments. There is the option to extend the franchise by a year. Plans for the new franchise include”
- 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;
- 12,200 additional seats – a 50% increase - across the entire train fleet;
- 65 Intercity Express Programme 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; and
- a £140 million investment package to improve trains and stations.
Secretary of State for Transport 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: "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."
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.
For more information, see RAIL 763 published on December 10.