London North Eastern Railway (LNER), the Department for Transport’s (DfT) operator of last resort, has taken over the InterCity East Coast franchise from Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC).
Despite the change of name and branding, all staff – from operational management to station staff and train guards – as well as timetables, fares and tickets remain the same.
Managing director David Horne said that, as LNER launches, the company’s message is that it is “business as usual”.
He added: “As we go through the initial transition period we remain absolutely committed to running the high levels of service that customers have come to expect. It is the staff who underpin the customer experience on the East Coast, so we’re delighted they have transferred with us and that customers can rely on seeing the same faces at their local station and on their usual train.”
Transport secretary Chris Grayling announced in May that VTEC (Stagecoach 90 per cent, Virgin Trains 10 per cent) would be stripped of the franchise following warnings that it would run out of money within months.
In addition, Grayling said the franchise would once more be brought back into public ownership – marking the third time that a private train operating company has had its InterCity East Coast franchise contract cancelled – until the scheduled start of the East Coast Partnership in 2020.
This followed an earlier announcement from Grayling in February when he revealed that, despite meeting all of its financial commitments to the taxpayer, Stagecoach had made significant losses of almost £200 million.
Following the handover to LNER, Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths said: “Our people can be fiercely proud of everything they’ve achieved: from delivering huge investment and high levels of customer satisfaction, to providing new services and benefits for passengers and creating hundreds of new jobs.
“The growth we’re now seeing proves our initiatives are paying off and the railway we hand over to LNER is not only better than we inherited, but one that has been positively transformed for customers and ready to continue our journey of improvement with the introduction of the new Azuma train fleet from December.”
The government-owned LNER, comprised of Arup, Ernest & Young, SNC-Lavalin and the DfT, began running services on June 24.
The first LNER-branded train departed King’s Cross for Edinburgh on June 25.
Read more: What next for the Great North Rail Project?