Virgin and Stagecoach awarded East Coast rail franchise

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A consortium including Virgin has been awarded the East Coast rail franchise.

The Government announced today that is has given the franchise to Inter City Railways, a consortium of Stagecoach and Virgin. It is now promising more seats, more services and new trains as well as 23 new services from London to key destinations, with 75 more station calls a day.

There are plans for new direct links to Huddersfield, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Dewsbury and Thornaby and proposals for more trains to London from Bradford, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Leeds, Lincoln, Newcastle, Shipley, Stirling and York.

The Government also says there will be:

3,100 extra seats for the morning peak time by 2020

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.

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.”

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 want to build on the quality and pride of the people who will be joining our team.

“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 says it will invest £140 million to bring extra benefits for passengers, including:

complete refurbishment of the existing train fleet

better wi-fi connections and onboard catering on the new Intercity Express train fleet

improved ticket offices and 170 new ticket vending machines

over 500 new car parking spaces

411 additional cycle spaces and new secure cycle facilities

a customer and community improvement fund

a training fund for new apprenticeships, internships and staff development.