Rail regulator approves future new passenger services on the East Coast Main Line

12 May 2016

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has today announced it has approved applications from Virgin Trains East Coast and FirstGroup for new train services travelling on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) between London and Edinburgh.

The new services will benefit passengers travelling to Middlesbrough, York, Newcastle, Morpeth, Lincoln, Leeds, Bradford, Harrogate and Stevenage. These services will be introduced in stages over the coming years, in some cases once Network Rail completes a programme of work to increase track capacity.

In 2014 and 2015 ORR received applications from three train operators seeking to introduce new train services on the ECML.

We have carried out extensive consultation and analysis of the competing applications, looking at the benefits they would bring to passengers, the effect on public funds, the benefits of competition, and whether they would make best use of the capacity on the route.

The result is that we have approved the applications from Virgin Trains East Coast and from FirstGroup. We have not approved applications from the Great North Eastern Railway Company Limited (GNER).

John Larkinson, ORR’s Director of Railway Markets and Economics said:

These new train services will give passengers more choice on services to Edinburgh and London and provide more frequent trains to towns and cities which are not so well served by rail today.
We thank all the applicants, Network Rail and other participants for their thorough input and engagement throughout this process.
Our decision has been informed by extensive analysis, formal industry hearings and detailed engagement with all parties. We have carefully weighed up the potential passenger benefits and the financial impacts on existing operators and the government, as we are required to do by law.

Notes to editors

  1. The Office of Rail and Road is the UK’s rail regulator and strategic roads monitor for England. Follow us @railandroad.
  2. Our decision letter and supporting evidence, including transcripts from hearings, are available to read at: http://orr.gov.uk/what-and-how-we-regulate/track-access/current-work/east-coast-main-line
  3. In December 2015 we published a consultation document on network charges in which we said there was a need to consider whether some open access operators should make a greater contribution to network costs, particularly where capacity is scarce and most valuable. We intend to launch a consultation on possible changes to network charges (the costs of operating the rail network) later this year.