News

Virgin and Stagecoach awarded East Coast rail franchise

27 Nov 2014 by GrahamSmith

Virgin Trains and Stagecoach have been awarded the franchise to run the East Coast mainline rail route.

The franchise has been in public ownership for the last five years after National Express ran into financial difficulties managing the London to Edinburgh route (see news, July 2009).

Inter City Railways, the name of the Virgin and Stagecoach partnership, will pay the government £3.3 billion for the contract. It has promised to invest £140 million in the mainline over eight years from March 1.

The deal includes commitments for a range of improvement and enhancements to the East Coast line, including 23 new services to London, more seats during the morning peak time, and new direct links to Huddersfield, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Dewsbury and Thornaby.

Martin Griffiths, CEO of Stagecoach Group, said: "Passengers using the East Coast mainline will benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds of infrastructure investment and service improvements over the next decade.

"Together with Virgin, our innovative plans will give customers new services, faster and more frequent trains, and easier, more personalised journeys."

The successful bid saw off competition from two other short-listed candidates, First Group and a consortium of Eurostar and French company Keolis.

However, the decision to reprivatise the East Coast line has proved controversial and attracted fierce opposition from some politicians and union leaders, who claim it has returned almost £600 million to taxpayers, since it went into public ownership five years ago.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "The government has confirmed that it is bulldozing ahead with the re-privatisation of the East Coast mainline despite all the figures showing that the current public sector operator is handing over a billion pounds back to the British people while delivering huge improvements in service and customer satisfaction."

virgintrains.co.uk, stagecoach.com

Graham Smith

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