East Coast route handed over to LNER

VIRGIN Trains East Coast (VTEC) completed the transfer of the business to the Government-backed LNER company over the weekend of June 23-24.

The new company was set up to take the business to the next franchise award.

The VTEC franchise, 90% owned by Stagecoach, had been suffering losses, and had pumped more than £160million of its own money into the business to offset declining passenger numbers.

One of the LNER Class 800 ‘Azuma’ vehicles on display outside Newcastle’s Discovery Museum as part of the Great Exhibition of the North, which also features Stephenson’s Rocket locomotive, and runs until September 9. The Hitachi Class 800 is only on display until July 2. CHRIS PLAYFAIR

During its tenure from March 2015, VTEC says it invested £75m and also increased premium payments to the Government by 30% over what Directly Operated Railways did when the DfT took back the National Express franchise.

VTEC says it has paid £800m to the Government. It also claimed passenger satisfaction increased following a re-fit of the carriages internally and work to improve rolling stock reliability.

Under the control of LNER, the next big phase will be to introduce the first of 65 Hitachi ‘Azuma’ trains to the network from December, now all 57 stations served have been cleared for use by the new trains.

Rebranding the franchise is said to be costing £8m.

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