Despite being cast as the underdog, Government has announced that it is to award an 8 year contract to run the EAST COAST MAIN LINE to Virgin and Stagecoach. This appears to be a political about turn, as it was widely leaked, briefed out to a variety of industry sources that a very strong bid from a consortium including SNCF French Railways would be favoured.
The UK Department for Transport said the new eight-year contract, from next March, would be serviced by a brand new fleet of 65 train units to be introduced from 2018, the final assembly by Japanese firm Hitachi in a Durham based plant in the UK.
The franchise has been [ profitably] in state hands since 2009 after the previous operator National Express abandoned it, before the strangely set up deal would require the franchisee to make increasingly loaded end balloon payments towards the latter part of the contract. It was then a simple choice to walk away from the contract, without the increase payments being incurred.
The new trains they say will increase capacity by 50 per cent with an extra 12,200 seats, with journey times between Edinburgh and London reduced by 13 minutes to around four hours from 2020 when the full Hitachi fleet is in service.
Martin Griffiths, chief executive of Stagecoach Group, said: “A passion for customers, employees and the community is at the heart of our plans for the franchise.
“We want to build on the quality and pride of the people who will be joining our team.
“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.”
Other improvements include better wi-fi on trains, which has been criticised by passengers, and upgraded onboard catering - on the new Intercity Express fleet.
Yesterday, Scottish Labour leadership candidate Neil Findlay joined those condemning the UK Government for re-privatising the service.
The trains will have faster acceleration and braking but top speed is restricted to the current 125mph speed limit..
Meanwhile the RMT Union has sent out a blistering, all guns blazing, Press Notice, It is published below in full:
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