Fares, rail policy and DfT news

22.03.19

FirstGroup finalises £100m order for Hitachi trains as plans for London-Edinburgh rail link move forward

FirstGroup has finalised a £100m order for Hitachi AT300 electric trainsets in a partnership between the two companies to create a new London-to-Edinburgh rail link.

FirstGroup said it had secured the rights to a new “open-access” rail service to create a “high-quality, low fare” rail link between the two capitals, providing confirmation that the service will start in Autumn 2021.

The company said it had now procured five new AT300 electric trains following the completion of a £100m deal for the rolling stock and ongoing maintenance from Hitachi, financed by Beacon Rail.

The intercity trains are capable of 125mph and under the plans they will offer an average fare of less than £25.

tn gb-firstgroup-eastcoast-hitachi-at300-kgx-impression2

The open-access service, meaning the train operator takes full commercial risk running on infrastructure owned by a third party, aims to encourage more passengers to take the train instead of flying, with two-thirds of journeys currently made by air.

FirstGroup has been developing its plans for a London-Edinburgh service for four years and announced in 2015 it intended to apply to the ORR for a license to run the trains.

Steve Montgomery, First Rail’s managing director, said: “We’re excited to announce the next step to providing our high-quality low fare service for customers linking London and Edinburgh.

“There’s a real gap in the market for truly affordable rail travel between the two capitals – our plans show we are serious about competing with low-cost airlines and opening up rail travel on this key route to thousands of new passengers.

“The new trains we are introducing will provide the highest level of comfort and service, whilst being great for the environment and air quality.”

Hitachi will build the five electric trains of five carriages each and as part of the deal the new trains will also be fully maintained by Hitachi for 10 years.

Karen Boswell, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “Our Japanese-bullet train inspired fleet will play a vital role in supporting FirstGroup’s exciting new service.

“These trains have been designed to increase the number of seats available whilst harnessing the latest in comfort design to boost passenger experiences.

“Today’s deal extends our long-term relationship with FirstGroup, who already use our pioneering intercity trains in other parts of the country to boost reliability and passenger satisfaction.”

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