Transport minister ends Virgin East Coast franchise

TRANSPORT SECRETARY Chris Grayling has called an end to the loss-making East Coast franchise, jointly run by Stagecoach and Virgin, under the Virgin Trains East Coast brand.

From June 24, the franchise will be run by the Department for Transport (DfT), using an operator of last resort, which will revive the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) name. All staff and most of the management will transfer to the new company. The former managing director of John Lewis and current West Midlands mayor Andy Street has been drafted in to advise LNER.

All change: HST power car Nos. 43311, 43306 and 43319 with on-test Class 800 No. 800103 at King’s Cross on May 15. GEOFF GRIFFITHS

Branding of the trains will change, with a red LNER logo, designed to blend with current liveries, applied to publicity, rolling stock and on the new Hitachi Class 80x trains that are due to enter service later in the year.

It is possible the ‘Azuma’ name for the new trains, derived by Virgin and Hitachi, may not be retained. Stagecoach owned 90% of the company, Virgin 10%, but used the Virgin brand because of its prominence.

It would seem the DfT has clearly had this move in the back of its mind for around three months, as a company called DfT OLR1 Ltd had its name changed to LNER on February 14.

Read more in the June issue of The RM – on sale now!

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