Stagecoach and Virgin win East Coast rail franchise

28 Nov 14
A consortium of Stagecoach and Virgin has been awarded the franchise to run passenger services on the East Coast mainline for the next eight years.

The joint venture – called Inter City Railways – will invest £140m in train fleet and station improvements and introduce 23 new services, including direct links to Huddersfield, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Dewsbury and Thornaby, on the line, which has been publically run since 2009.

There are also plans to increase the number of trains from London to Bradford, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Leeds, Lincoln, Newcastle, Shipley, Stirling and York.

As well as improvements to services, the deal includes commitments on staff training and development, including a new fund for apprenticeships and internships.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin hailed the franchise as a ‘fantastic deal’ for both passengers and staff.

‘It gives passengers more seats, more services and new trains,’ he said.

‘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.’

Martin Griffiths, chief executive of the Stagecoach Group, said: ‘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.’

However, rail unions were hostile to the news, citing the successful public operation of the East Coast line over the past five years.

The RMT called the re-privatisation of the line an ‘act of utter betrayal’ highlighting both the financial and service success of current arrangements.

‘It is simply ludicrous to even contemplate re-privatisation when not only have there been two previous private sector failures on the East Coast route but when the public-sector rescue operation has been such a stunning success,’ said RMT general secretary Mick Cash.

At Aslef, general secretary Mick Whelan said the decision was ‘disappointing and short sighted’.

He said: ‘The East Coast has delivered excellent value and service for both passengers and taxpayers in the public sector over the last five years. All of this is now lost.

‘The growth of the rail industry in the last two decades is down to economic and social changes. It is the public sector which takes the risk and provides the investment not the private sector.’


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