York retains its rail HQ: City is ‘big part of our plans’

11 Dec 2014 @ 11.55 am
| Politics, Transport

Next stop, York: a Virgin train
York will be home to Virgin Trains East Coast HQ. And a new rail academy is also coming to the city, which the company said “forms a big part of our plans”.

The announcement on Thursday (December 11) follows the signing of the InterCity East Coast rail franchise contract by the Department for Transport this week.

A Stagecoach-Virgin venture will take over responsibility for running the franchise in March 2015, having been awarded an eight-year franchise.

The city’s heritage as a railway centre, which dates back to the pledge of 19th century entrepreneur George Hudson to “mek all t’railways come to York”, was an important factor in both decisions.

‘Hugely exciting time’

Revealing the news, Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths said the new venture wanted to build on the success of the old.

“This is a hugely exciting time for the passengers, businesses and communities who will benefit from rail services on the East Coast route. We also have great plans for the committed team of employees that will be part of Virgin Trains East Coast.

“York has a great rail heritage and forms a big part of our plans. As well as continuing to be home to the headquarters for the route, will be opening a new National Academy for Rail Professional Education (NARPE) in 2016, with one of the bases in York.

“While the franchise officially begins in March next year, our team are already planning ahead to build on the strong pride, heritage and success at East Coast. Over the coming months, we will be working closely with employees and the management team to ensure a smooth transition to the new franchise.

“Stagecoach and our partners Virgin see investing in people and delivering great customer service as key to the future. We look forward to welcoming staff into the Stagecoach and Virgin family and making Virgin Trains East Coast a huge success.”

– Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths

The company has pledged to invest about £140 million in delivering an improved service and a more personalised travel experience for customers, on top of a whole new fleet of high quality trains.

City of York Council welcomed both the HQ and the rail academy.

“We fully support this continued investment in the city. It’s important that we support and grow our existing talent pool of 5,000 people working in the rail related industry in York.

“This is great news for everyone who wants better main line services and to emphasise that York is a natural home for the rail industry, with ready access to skilled people and other rail organisations.

“We’ve offered to meet the new operator to discuss how we can work together to improve both rail services and employment opportunities for our city. We hope to meet with them to discuss more on the HQ and academy proposals soon.”

– Cllr David Levene, Cabinet member for Transport