The trains will operate from 2021 and will join services by the existing rail franchise on the east coast line, Virgin Trains. The line is a busy and prestigious one, taking in cities including York , Doncaster, and Newcastle, as well as London and Edinburgh. It also offers sweeping views of the British coastline, especially around the border between England and Scotland.
The price of rail transport is a contentious issue in the UK, with tickets often costing far more than their equivalents in continental Europe. Tim O’Toole, First Group’s chief executive, told the Guardian: “We will offer genuinely low fares at half the average price of today, while adding significant benefits to the UK economy. Our brand new trains will be cheaper than other rail services, greener than the plane, quicker than the coach and will get passengers from London to Edinburgh earlier than they can arrive today, all for an average fare of less than £25.”
First Group will run five InterCity-type trains a day in each direction, each carrying around 400 people. There will be no first-class seating and the space for passengers is inspired by budget airlines. A new service from Virgin Trains that will stop at Lincoln and Harrogate was also approved. The two cities have considerable appeal for visitors and could benefit from the new links. Lincoln has a cathedral that was once the world’s tallest building as well as grand castle walls and one of the original copies of the Magna Carta. Pretty Harrogate is a classic spa town with an increasingly confident eating scene.