New, low cost London-Edinburgh services
A new train service between London and Edinburgh is in development by First Group, having secured the rights from the government regulator. This provides passengers travelling between the capitals with an attractive new alternative to domestic flights, the motorway or existing rail services. From April 2021, a fleet of five new high‐speed Hitachi trains, able to carry up to 400 passengers each, will get the new service underway, at a highly competitive average fare of £25.
The £100million investment in new trains will offer the comfort and facilities that long‐distance travellers expect, with modern air‐conditioned carriages, Wi‐Fi and power sockets. There will be five trains a day each way from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh, via Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth, with journey times of approximately four hours. The first service of the day from London is planned to arrive in Edinburgh by 10:00 am, specifically targeted to attract business passengers who would usually fly, but without the hassle of getting to and from the airport and queues to get through security.
This service won’t run as part of a franchise agreement, where the government grants one train company the right to run services on part of the network for a fixed number of years. This is an open access agreement, where a train company that spots a gap in the market can bid for available slots on an existing route, and compete with other services. Giving passengers that choice is a great incentive for operators to improve facilities, extend services and keep fares competitively priced.
This new First Group service builds on the success of First Hull Trains, an open access operation that has transformed the service between London and Hull since 2000. This award‐winning operator regularly tops the official league tables for passenger satisfaction. First Hull Trains makes 90 journeys a week on the East Coast Mainline between London and Hull and transports more than 750,000 people annually – a ten‐fold increase since inception.
The First Hull Trains services will also be benefitting from brand new Hitachi trains, with £60million being invested in replacing all of the current fleet beginning this December. With free Wi‐Fi and award‐winning catering and service on‐board, First Hull Trains is continuing to invest in providing an industry‐leading passenger experience at a highly competitive price.