Rail franchises operators & contracts


East Coast back in public hands under same leadership and staff

The East Coast franchise has been officially handed back to public control as the first branded London North Eastern Railway (LNER) train departed from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh today.

The inaugural journey marks the formal termination of the Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) operation – a move which was first hinted at last year – and represents the third failure of the East Coast franchise in just over 10 years.

It also symbolises the return of one of Britain’s most iconic rail brands, which was last seen in 1948.

David Horne, VTEC’s former managing director, was handed the same role at the refreshed LNER franchise. In an interview with the Press Association, he emphasised that he was not involved in the 2013-14 bidding process and argued that his appointment was “absolutely the right thing to do.”

“The fact I’m transferring and everybody in the company is transferring will give us stability so we can remain focused on ensuring that we continue to deliver a successful train service for our customers,” Horne said, adding that the TOC had a really short period of time to prepare for new operations— given that Chris Grayling only announced the transition date in mid-May.

The rest of the VTEC team has also transferred across to the new brand, from operational management to station staff and train guards, in order to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

Speaking today, the LNER managing director assured customers and employees that “it is business as usual.” There will be no changes to the services customers use on the East Coast Main Line (ECML), all existing tickets remain valid, new tickets can all be bought in the same way, and the same scheduled trains are in operation. LNER will also take over VTEC’s social media channels.

“As we go through the initial transition period we remain absolutely committed to running the high levels of service that customers have come to expect,” Horne continued. “It is the staff who underpin the customer experience on the East Coast, so we’re delighted they have transferred with us and that customers can rely on seeing the same faces at their local station and on their usual train.”

Rail minister Jo Johnson noted that the LNER launch is just the first step towards establishing the East Coast Partnership, which will bring “track and train closer together” in a similar model as to what is being done in renewed franchises countrywide.

As expected, LNER will progress with VTEC’s investment in the ECML, including by rolling out the brand-new Azuma trains alongside Hitachi and delivering timetable and station improvements.

Top image: c. Danny Lawson, PA Wire


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Former Aston Villa chair announced as WMCA HS2 growth delivery chair

21/09/2018Former Aston Villa chair announced as WMCA HS2 growth delivery chair

Steve Hollis has been announced as the new chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) HS2 growth delivery board. A former chairman... more >
Major northern station upgrade reaches phase two of redevelopment

21/09/2018Major northern station upgrade reaches phase two of redevelopment

Plans to improve the Doncaster Railway Station have reached phase two of the redevelopment process. Work has begun on the plans, developed b... more >
Northern unveils new digital train for roll-out at end of year

21/09/2018Northern unveils new digital train for roll-out at end of year

Northern has unveiled its refurbished Class 158 digital train for passengers, ahead of the new fleet’s complete roll-out by the end of the ... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

The East Coast franchise report tells us what we already knew: it was a bid set up to fail

18/09/2018The East Coast franchise report tells us what we already knew: it was a bid set up to fail

RTM's Jack Donnelly assesses what the Transport Committee's latest report on the VTEC franchise means for the industry as a whole “Even now, there is no concrete plan, nor timescales, for the interim operator of this franchise. From our inquiry, we cannot be sure, and cannot reassure passengers or public, that the arrangements ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Northern Powerhouse Rail: The need for change

18/09/2018Northern Powerhouse Rail: The need for change

Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) will be transformational for the north – it will change the way people live, work, and play. It will rebalan... more >
Innovation through people and technology

18/09/2018Innovation through people and technology

Ian Prosser, HM chief inspector of railways and director of railway safety at the ORR, picks out the key industry challenges to focus on based on... more >
Why we all must mind the gap

18/09/2018Why we all must mind the gap

Clair Mowbray, chief executive of the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR), explains how we can all ensure the UK’s next generation... more >
3D printing: from virtual to real

11/09/20183D printing: from virtual to real

Like so many other technological advancements, 3D printing has moved from being the stuff of science fiction, through niche industrial applicatio... more >

rail industry focus

View all News


Going global: an interview with Network Rail’s Leevan Finney

29/08/2018Going global: an interview with Network Rail’s Leevan Finney

RTM’s Jack Donnelly sat down with one of the leading minds behind Network Rail’s most advanced and innovative rail maintenance techno... more >