First step taken on road to increased London services

East Coast train

East Coast train

  • East Coast rail route between London and Scotland returns to private hands
  • Virgin Trains East Coast were awarded the franchise in November
  • Announcement signalled additional six trains to and from London from 2019
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The first step has been taken to seeing more London services to Harrogate after the new East Coast franchise was launched on March 2.

Rail journeys between London and Edinburgh via York were transformed in November after the government announced it would award the franchise to Virgin Trains East Coast.

Harrogate had a special need for these additional services to London

Brian Dunsby

The announcement included a host of extra benefits for passengers along the route, including an additional six trains to and from London from Harrogate per day from 2019.

The launch comes as Harrogate is preparing for the long-awaited decision over electrification of the Leeds-York line today (Thursday).

Rail minister Claire Perry visited King’s Cross station on March 2 for the launch which sees the service return to private hands after more than five years in the public sector.

She said: “Passengers will benefit from thousands of extra seats, new connections and improved services between London and Scotland.

“The deal also means more than £3bn will be returned to taxpayers. We are investing record amounts in building a world-class railway as part of our long-term economic plan.”

More seats, more services and new trains, underpinned by £140 million of investment have all been promised as part of the franchise, with the £3bn coming from the money Virgin Trains East Coast is paying for the contract.

The announcement was hailed by the Chief Executive of Harrogate Chamber, Brian Dunsby.

He said: “This is the biggest step of improving transport in Harrogate since the southern bypass. Harrogate had a special need for these additional services to London as it is a visitor economy and does not depend entirely on business commutes.

“It was absolutely magic when we secured the deal.

“Our businesses and the leisure attractions will benefit massively but so will our residents.”

Since 2008, extensive researching and campaigning from the chamber has been continuing to demonstrate the need for additional open access direct services from Harrogate to London.

Mr Dunsby said eventually the DfT and ORR agreed that Harrogate had a ‘special need’ after ‘demonstrating the demand’ in the town.