Subscribers who read the Anglo-Scottish rail story in the December issue of Business Traveller (see Rail: Border Crossing) will know that new Hitachi Azuma trains will serve the London-Edinburgh route.
When the article was written it was unclear exactly when the Azuma trains would replace Virgin Trains East Coast’s (VTEC) fleet of life-expired HST diesel and Mallard electric trains.
But rail insiders have indicated that the Azuma trains will enter VTEC service in December 2018 and it is intended to operate them to Edinburgh in March 2019.
As yet we have no detail of what the seating breakdown will be. In other words we do not yet know the exact composition of the Azuma trains.
But when all these trains do enter service by 2020 it would appear that 6,300 additional seats will be made available for passengers.
We also understand that two daily (in each direction) London-Newcastle trains will be extended to Edinburgh.
This is important because, as revealed in our feature, rail is now taking market share from the airlines.
It is the first time this has happened, in my experience, because rail has been steadily losing passengers to air ever since the airlines began to seriously develop their services from the 1960s.
And this extra capacity is badly needed at peak times when rail passengers complain of overcrowding on Anglo-Scottish routes and especially during the Edinburgh Festival.
All the above will, I am sure, happen because it’s understood they will take place by 2020.
I say that because the government has decided to terminate VTEC’s East Coast Mainine (ECML) contract three years ahead of schedule in 2020. It intends to revise the ECML franchise.
We shall bring you further details in due course. Meanwhile our newspiece from July provides background on ECML operators since privatisation.