UK Government

Department for Transport: Faster, more frequent journeys for East Coast Main Line

Press Release   •   Jan 21, 2010 11:03 GMT

EDINBURGH - LONDON IN UNDER 4 HRS
BETTER STATIONS, BETTER CATERING

Passengers using the busy East Coast Main Line (ECML) are set to benefit from faster and more frequent journeys as well as better stations and catering, Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis announced today after he set out what the Government will expect of future bidders to run the line, alongside an improved new proposed timetable for the route

The proposed new timetable, to be introduced by the nationalised East Coast company in May 2011, will deliver over 10% more trains into London King’s Cross in the morning peak and will give the line - which runs between London King's Cross and Scotland, serving destinations including Peterborough, Doncaster, Leeds, York and Newcastle in between - its first ever standard interval 'clockface' service pattern. Most services will be faster than now and Andrew Adonis has also asked Network Rail and the train operator to introduce a new extra-fast service from Edinburgh to London and back in less than 4 hours, within 2 years.

Bidders looking to run the line have been told that they will need to set out how they will manage on-train catering - which must include a full meals service - and improve cycle and car parking provision and station facilities such as waiting rooms, shelters, toilets, ticket machines and booking offices. Potential operators will also be expected to demonstrate how they will deliver greater consistency and simplicity of ticket pricing.

Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis said:

"The East Coast Main Line is one of Britain's most important rail routes. It is vital to connecting cities in Scotland and the North of England to London and deserves the best possible service. This new timetable is a big improvement for passengers. Journey times will come down and there will be more frequent services. It will also introduce a new standard interval timetable and there will be more trains on all these routes.

"I am also setting out today improvements which operators interested in running the East Coast Main Line will need to consider when drawing up their bids to replace the nationalised East Coast company in 2011. As well as quicker and more frequent trains, I want to see better stations, improved catering and simpler ticketing.

"I am particularly keen to cut journey times between major Scottish and northern cities and London. The standard journey time from Edinburgh to London will come down to 4 hours and 20 minutes, from Newcastle to London to 2 hours and 50 minutes and from Leeds to London to 2 hours and 10 minutes.

"I want to improve further on this by reintroducing the 'Flying Scotsman', with a journey time of less than 4 hours for the key business services between Edinburgh and London and back. I want to see the 'Flying Scotsman' introduced within two years, and Network Rail have undertaken to facilitate this.

"Under the proposals, Glasgow will also benefit from new direct services to Leeds and Sheffield - major destinations to which there are currently very few through trains at present. Most existing Glasgow services to London King's Cross will instead run to Leeds and Sheffield - giving new regular connections between Glasgow and these important cities without any loss of service between Glasgow and Newcastle and other cities in the North East of England.

"Passengers from Glasgow to London already overwhelmingly use the recently upgraded West Coast Main Line, with its regular fast service to London Euston, which is more than an hour faster than the King's Cross service and I have agreed additional stops at Motherwell for some Euston services to maintain the town's London connections. Motherwell will also gain from the new Glasgow to Leeds and Sheffield services and there will be no reduction in Motherwell to Edinburgh services.

"I consulted the Scottish Government on this package of improvements and I am grateful for the constructive support of Scottish Ministers. I will continue to work with them in the design of the new East Coast franchise to maximise benefits for Scottish travellers."

Notes to editors

May 2011 Timetable

1.      The new timetable is being published by East Coast, the current train operator on the ECML. The new timetable - which will be subject to public consultation - is due to come into effect in May 2011.

2.      The proposed new timetable will deliver:

-  One train an hour between Edinburgh and London (in both directions), completing the journey in a new standard journey time of 4 hours 20 minutes, on average 11 minutes faster than today.

-  A second train between Edinburgh and London (in both directions) in alternate hours, serving most intermediate stations and giving a total increase from 17 to 20 trains per day between London and Edinburgh.

-  Two trains an hour between Newcastle and London (in both directions), with every second train completing the journey in a new standard journey time of 2 hours 50 minutes, on average 17 minutes faster than today.

-  Two trains every hour between Leeds and London (in both directions), with a standard journey time in both directions of 2 hours 10 minutes, on average 13 minutes faster than today.

-  Two trains every hour between York and London (in both directions), with every second train completing the journey in a new standard journey time of 1 hour 51 minutes, on average 9 minutes faster than today.

-  A third train between York and London (in both directions) in alternate hours, serving most intermediate stations and giving a total increase from 32 to 37 trains per day between London and York.

-  A train between Lincoln and London on alternate hours, introducing new regular through services between London and Lincoln.

-  Shorter journey times and more services to key intermediate stations such as Doncaster and Darlington.

-  An additional through train from Dundee to London.

-  New CrossCountry direct services from Glasgow and Motherwell to Leeds and Sheffield, replacing existing services to London King's Cross.

-  Through services to/from Hull, Bradford, Skipton, Harrogate, Aberdeen and Inverness retained broadly as today.

3.      Currently the majority of East Coast services to Scotland operate to Edinburgh, with some continuing to Glasgow. Under the proposed new timetable through services between Glasgow and King’s Cross would be replaced west of Edinburgh by CrossCountry services. This will create new direct services between Glasgow, Motherwell, Leeds and Sheffield, while existing journey opportunities to North East England will also be retained.

4.      Other train operators on the East Coast Main Line will also be making changes to their services to improve the overall timetable and to provide good connections with the new East Coast services. These changes will be the subject of a separate consultation to be undertaken by those train operators, including First Capital Connect, East Midlands Trains, First Transpennine Express, Northern, CrossCountry and Scotrail.

New Franchise Consultation

5.      Publication of the Franchise Consultation means that stakeholders’ aspirations for the franchise are being formally invited from today. The consultation closes on 19 April 2010.

6.      In addition to the May 2011 timetable benefits, the Government is inviting prospective bidders for the franchise to consider how they will maximise the opportunities presented by the introduction of new Super Express Trains on the route which is planned for 2016. Potential improvements set out in the consultation document include:

-  Regular London - Edinburgh journey times of less than 4 hours;

-  Half-hourly London - Edinburgh services;

-  Regular London - Leeds journey times of less than 2 hours;

-  Three trains per hour between London and Leeds;

-  Regular services between London and locations such as Bradford, Cleethorpes, Harrogate, Hull, Middlesbrough and Sunderland and;

-  Use of half-trains to provide through services to multiple locations and to reduce operating costs.

7.      The consultation document sets out the main challenges that the new franchise will face and highlights the key requirements that the Department currently proposes to include within the Invitation to Tender (ITT).

8.      The Government will be running a pre-qualification process during summer 2010 to short-list bidders for the franchise.

9.      Responses to the consultation will inform the development of the ITT that bidders will be asked to bid on. The Department expects to publish the ITT in Autumn 2010.

10. The new franchise is set to commence in Autumn 2011.

11. As part of the tendering process the Government will consider the potential for a longer franchise in return for more investment from the operator in rolling stock and stations.

12. The new franchise will also contain contractually binding National Passenger Service (NPS) targets with additional obligations to ensure delivery of investment.

13. Over the coming weeks the Department will have extensive discussions with interested stakeholders about the franchise.

14. The franchise consultation document is available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/2010-08

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