Virgin and Stagecoach win East Coast rail franchise. Here’s what it means for York
Goodbye East Coast, hello Inter City Railways. The Government announced on Thursday (November 27) the new private company to run the East Coast Main Line between York, London and Edinburgh
What is Inter City Railways?
Inter City Railways is a consortium – 90% is owned by Stagecoach and 10% by Virgin, but trains will be branded Virgin Trains East Coast.
Inter City Railways will run the franchise from March 2015 to March 2023, with the option of a one-year extension at the discretion of the Department For Transport.
The current train operating company, East Coast, is publicly owned.
How much have they paid?
Inter City Railways will pay the government around £3.3 billion to operate the franchise.
In its turn, the Department For Transport is promising to spend £38 billion improving and maintaining the national rail network.
What are the promises on trains and fares?
According to Stagecoach the consortium’s £140 million investment will see…
- More trains between York and London – three trains an hour between York and London from May 2019, with an extra train every two hours from May 2020
- Improved ticket office at York station
- New trains: 65 new ‘Super Express’ trains from 2018 with £140 million-pound train refresh programme for existing fleet
- More services – a 50% increase in capacity by 2020 with total fleet capacity increased by 12,200 seats
- Better value fares – a 10% cut in Standard Anytime fares on long-distance journeys to and from London
Any other promises?
There will be a technology upgrade, with a new website, smartphone apps, interactive touchscreen information points at major stations and free WiFi on trains and stations.
Passengers will be able to order food from their seats and benefit from a “new Nectar loyalty programme“.
Stagecoach also promises better “community engagement”, which means apprenticeships for young people, graduate and ex-offenders programmes, dedicated communities fund and support for small businesses.
Where will the new trains be built?
Well not in York obviously, as previous governments systematically destroyed the city’s carriage building industry.
The new Intercity Express trains will be assembled at Hitachi’s factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.
Where will the HQ be located?
We’re not sure yet. The East Coast company has its headquarters in York, and the council want the new consortium to follow suit.
“This will help underline the point that York is a place where the rail industry can do business, with ready access to skilled people and other rail organisations.”
– Cllr David Levene, Cabinet member for transport
What does it mean for staff?
Watch this space… East Coast employs hundreds of people in York. This is what their future boss says:
– Martin Griffiths, chief executive of Stagecoach Group
What are people saying?
This is the best day ever for York travellers, according to the Government…
“We are putting passengers at the centre of the service. I believe Stagecoach and Virgin will not only deliver for customers but also for the British taxpayer.”
– Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary
…and the winning bosses:
“We plan to deliver similar success on the East Coast and are looking forward to working with the team there to build on their achievements.”
– Patrick McCall, senior partner, Virgin Group
Or a disaster for travellers and the public purse, according to rail union the RMT:
– Mick Cash, RMT general secretary
While the outgoing York leader, who is also chair of the Consortium of East Coast Main Line Authorities, said this…
“When I met all the bidders for the franchise earlier this year, they were agreeable to the case for further investment.”
– Coun James Alexander, City of York Council leader
What’s the legacy of East Coast trains?
The East Coast Mainline has been run by Directly Operated Railways since 2009. It is a publicly owned rail company set up after National Express walked out on their franchise contract.
Since then it has…
- Carried 18 million passengers a year
- Launched the biggest timetable change to the route in over 20 years
- Added 19 new train services per day and three million additional seats
- Received a 91 per cent satisfaction rating from passengers.
It has also delivered excellent value for money.
Since being placed in public hands, East Coast has received £0.46 of government funding per passenger mile, compared to £4.57 on West Coast.
At the same time, East Coast returns the highest level of premium back to the Government. Since 2009, it has returned more than £1 billion to the taxpayer.
So I do hope the glib point James Alexander made about his one meeting with ‘the bidders’ was not the totality of the economic development effort from the city of york.
Had we had a proper economic developemt strategy with identifiable programmes and projects and proper scrutiny- we would no doubt have seen or ensured a business retention programme would have been in place. Within that programme there would have been a planned effort on the retention of the HQ with all the bidders.
Now I wonder if that happened? Or were the staff too busy on transcontinental innovation adventures scooping up prizes from fellow innovators to bother about retaining one of the most valuable employers in the city. I hope I am wrong…. But …..