FirstGroup has completed a £100 million deal with Hitachi, financed by Beacon Rail, for five five-car Class 802 trains to run on a new London-Edinburgh service.
In 2016, the transport group secured 10-year track access rights from the ORR to run a new open access service between the two capitals from autumn 2021.
With Hull Trains, FirstGroup already has experience of running an open access operation.
By promising customers an average fare of less than £25, onboard catering and free wi-fi, FirstGroup is seeking to attract business passengers who usually fly between the two capitals. Currently two-thirds of journeys between London and Edinburgh are made by air, according to the transport group.
The service will comprise five trains a day each way from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh, via intermediate stations at Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth, with journey times of approximately four hours.
First Rail managing director Steve Montgomery said: “There’s a real gap in the market for truly affordable rail travel between the two capitals – our plans show we are serious about competing with low-cost airlines and opening up rail travel on this key route to thousands of new passengers.”
The £100 million deal with Hitachi also includes 10 years of maintenance.