Until now open access operators over the East Coast Mainline (ECML) have confined themselves to operating between the Northeast, Yorkshire and London.

But four years after Business Traveller first revealed the news, First Group is preparing to operate along probably the UK’s most prestigious long distance route, namely London Kings Cross to Edinburgh via the ECML.

Industry publication railmagazine.com reports that the first of five Hitachi trainsets ordered by First Group has reached the UK.

It will be fitted out at Hitachi’s rail manufacturing plant in the Northeast.

All told the cost of the five trainsets plus their maintenance will cost £100 million according to railtechnologymagazine.com.

What can our readers look forward to? Plans call for up to five services daily (I say “up to” because train firms usually operate fewer trains at weekends) and they won’t appeal solely to point-to-point London-Edinburgh travellers.

In particular, besides Newcastle, there will be stops at Stevenage and Morpeth. The latter are intended to appeal to air travel users.

Attractive fares will also be part of the package.

First Group, which shares the Avanti TOC franchise with Trenitalia, will be competing with government-run LNER who already operates the route every 30 minutes throughout most of the day.

It is hoped that services will start in Autumn 2021 as long as Covid-19 doesn’t throw a spanner in the works.