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First Group’s open access plans move forward


FIRST GROUP’S aspiration to run open access services on the East Coast Main Line from Edinburgh to London took a big step forward when an order for five Hitachi AT300 trains was confirmed.

The services will begin in autumn 2021. 

The Class 802 electric-only trains will be worth £100million and are being financed by Beacon Rail, with Hitachi maintaining the sets for 10 years. 

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First has spent four years developing plans since applying for approval in 2015, which was given in April 2016. 

Key to First’s plans will be average fares of £25, with one class of seating, free wi-fi and on-board catering.

First Group’s open access operation will use Hitachi trains similar to the Class 802s currently on test with sister company TransPennine. On March 20, bi-mode TPE set No. 802202 makes its first daylight working over the Pennines from Neville Hill to Edge Hill depot, and is seen passing the site of Longwood & Milnsbridge station. DAVID RODGERS

Five trains a day are planned, calling at Morpeth, Newcastle and Stevenage, with a target journey time of four hours. 

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First is aiming for the first London departure arriving in Edinburgh by 10.00, and is clearly hoping to win over air travellers. 

First Rail managing director Steve Montgomery 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 and we are serious about competing with low-cost airlines. 

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“The new trains will provide the highest level of comfort and service.”

Read more News and Features in the April 2019 issue of The RM – on sale now!

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