- Biggest increase in Saturday services since electrification of route in 1990
- 12,574 more seats for customers; with Leeds, York and Newark to benefit from 24 additional services
- 6,000 more low-cost advance fares available per week
Customers on Virgin Trains’ east coast route will see the biggest boost to Saturday services in more than 25 years this December.
A new timetable, part of a £140m investment in the route by Virgin Trains, will change weekend travel for thousands of customers. More frequent services to and from destinations including Leeds, York and Newark Northgate will mean customers will benefit from a similar frequency of services to those enjoyed on weekdays.
In total, 151 services will operate every Saturday, only six fewer than on weekdays, making it easier for leisure passengers to secure bargain fares. Around 6,000 additional tickets will go on sale for under £30 every week to destinations including York, Doncaster, Newark, Peterborough and Grantham. For example, customers travelling between London and Newark will be able to find tickets from as low as £12.50, while fares between York and London start at £16.
From December 17, there will be a further 24 Saturday services, an increase of 45% compared to when Virgin Trains took over the east coast route in March 2015. This will add 12,574 more seats to Virgin Trains’ existing capacity. The timetable represents the biggest increase in Saturday services since the introduction of Intercity 225 trains in 1990, following electrification of the East Coast Mainline.
York customers wanting to reach the capital for a 7am start on weekdays will benefit from a 4.40am service, giving them an extra 1hr12m in London than was possible under the previous timetable. This follows calls from the business community for a service that enables them to get to the capital for early-morning meetings.
The new timetable will accelerate journeys from Leeds and Wakefield to London by seven minutes on Saturdays making the trip from Wakefield an average of two hours long. A Sunday evening service from London to Doncaster which leaves at 10.05pm will be extended to York, allowing those wishing to make the most of a weekend in London to catch a later service home.
David Horne, Virgin Trains Managing Director on the east coast route, said he was confident the timetable changes would attract more people to rail: "Our new timetable brings new services that we know our customers want as well as thousands of low cost seats. Six days of the week, customers will be able to enjoy the most frequent service we’ve ever seen on the east coast mainline and we’re not stopping there. Our £140m investment is about reducing journey times, increasing the frequency of services, and giving customers a great experience on-board with refurbished trains and refreshed on-board catering – for less. We’re confident that these investments will make it easier, cheaper and quicker than many think to travel by train."
Rob McIntosh, Route Managing Director at Network Rail, said: “I’m delighted that after working closely with Virgin Trains we have, together, produced a new timetable which balances the needs of customers with the need to maintain a safe and reliable network for the benefit of the communities and economies our railway serves.”
Virgin Trains introduced 45 additional services per week between Edinburgh and London last year as it completed a programme to overhaul the interiors of its entire train fleet. The investment led to the number of passengers travelling between the UK and Scottish capitals growing by 8% last year and helped Virgin Trains win its highest-ever share of the air/rail market on the route.
About Virgin Trains:
Stagecoach and Virgin are working in partnership to operate the East Coast and West Coast inter-city routes under the Virgin Trains brand. Together, they are on track to revolutionise rail travel across the UK.
The combined network connects some of the nation’s most iconic destinations including Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, York and London.
Virgin Trains is committed to delivering a high speed, high frequency service, offering shorter journey times, more comfortable travel and excellent customer service. Customers consistently rate Virgin Trains as one of the top long-distance rail franchise operators in the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) commissioned by industry watchdog, Transport Focus.
On the East Coast route, £140m is being invested to create a more personalised travel experience. We have already invested over £40m in our existing fleet, including £21m refurbishing the interiors and £16m towards improving the engines of our trains. Customers can now benefit from 42 additional services between Edinburgh and London every week, and an extra 22 Saturday services between Leeds and London – a total of 1.74 million additional seats since May 2016. 2018 will see the introduction of completely new Azuma trains being built in the UK by Hitachi.
The West Coast route has a proud record of challenging the status quo - from introducing tilting Pendolino trains, to a pioneering automated delay repay scheme and becoming the first franchised rail operator to offer m-Tickets for all ticket types.
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