Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) has been stripped of its contract to operate the East Coast Mainline (ECML) and in its place will be a revived London North Eastern Railway brand.
The government announced the details at lunchtime today as The Scotsman has now reported.
VTEC (90 per cent owned by Stagecoach, 10 per owned by Virgin) will ‘hand back the keys’ to the ECML franchise on June 24.
Instead of East Coast, the government has decided to revive the historic LNER (London North Eastern Railway) name.
The news will come as no surprise to our readers.
As we reported almost one year ago VTEC was making losses on its ECML operation.
And bearing in mind VTEC was having to pay the government a massive £3.3 billion in fees over the eight-year life of the franchise this situation could not continue.
The ECML is a troublesome franchise. Initially two private operators (GNER and National Express) failed to make it a success.
Then East Coast, a government franchise, took over until a new operator which was to be VTEC took over.
And now VTEC, the third private operator, will have failed.
Says Anthony Smith, chief executive of watchdog Transport Focus, “Whichever organisation runs East Coast services, under whatever new arrangements, passengers will be looking for the quality of current services to be maintained and built on. East Coast is currently the top-rated franchise in Great Britain – with 92 per cent overall satisfaction in the latest National Rail Passenger Survey.”
The revival of LNER will strike a chord with readers who can recall rail travel in the 1930s when it was *the* way to travel.
LNER is famous not just for speed and its streamlined steam locomotives but also for an age in which rail travel was glamorous.
Business Traveller will keep you updated with developments in the weeks ahead.