New London-Edinburgh Low Fares Rail Service To Offer Choice For Passengers and Boost Economic Growth FirstGroup plc ('the Group') has been granted approval to launch open access rail services between
London, north-east Englandand Edinburgh"offering great value fares and high-quality service, whilst giving passengers on the route a new
The ten-year track access rights application approved by the Office of Rail and
Road (ORR) will enable the Group's East Coast Trains Limited to begin operating five trains a day each way from
LondonKing's Cross to Edinburgh, via intermediate stations at Stevenage, Newcastleand Morpeth, by 2021. Passengers will benefit from an average fare of less than £25, free Wi-Fi and on-board catering, all offered in one high-quality class of travel. The new service is designed to provide choice for passengers looking to travel between London, north-east Englandand Scotland, and will encourage travellers to switch from air or coach travel to rail. Tim O'Toole, Chief Executive, commented: "I'm pleased that the ORR has granted track access rights for our unique low-cost service between London, the North East of Englandand Edinburgh. This is great news for passengers, as our new service will widen the choice of travel options between these cities and offer an attractive alternative to those available today. "We will offer genuinely low fares at half the average price of today, while adding significant benefits to the UKeconomy. Our brand new trains will be cheaper than other rail services, greener than the plane, quicker than the coach and will get passengers from Londonto Edinburghearlier than they can arrive today, all for an average fare of less than £25. "Now that our application has been approved and we have been granted rights we will implement the next steps to deliver our proposals which include discussions with Network Rail and rolling stock manufacturers."
Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive of Stagecoach Group plc, who already run services on
the East Coast line under current franchise agreements said:
"With respect to the decision on open access between
Londonand Edinburgh, We do
not believe the granting of these services within a franchised system and without a level
playing field is in the best interests of passengers, taxpayers or communities.
"We will assess the ORR decision and implications in detail and review our options."
The good news for Stagecoach Group is that the ORR has approved the application made by Virgin Trains East Coast ("VTEC"), in which Stagecoach has a 90% shareholding, to run new services between
London and Edinburgh, Harrogate, Lincoln and Middlesbrough.
These services formed part of VTEC's successful bid for the East Coast
rail franchise, which started in March 2015 and is planned to run until
at least 31 March 2023.
VTEC's core existing timetable has been approved from December 2017 when the current access contract expires. In addition, VTEC has been granted firm rights for service extensions to