Bus group moves into rail territory

THE bus industry tightened its grip even more firmly on the passenger railway this week with the news that National Express Group is to take over the East Coast franchise. From December 9, Huntingdonshire rail passengers for Leeds, York, north-east Englan

THE bus industry tightened its grip even more firmly on the passenger railway this week with the news that National Express Group is to take over the East Coast franchise.

From December 9, Huntingdonshire rail passengers for Leeds, York, north-east England and Scotland will no longer be carried by GNER - though they may not notice the difference until the trains are re-liveried.

GNER, a subsidiary of the troubled Bermuda-based Sea Containers, has operated the franchise for more than a decade since privatisation. It is the only franchise that does not involve a bus company - even Virgin's West Coast and Cross-Country franchises are joint ventures with Stagecoach.

Once the new franchise, which lasts until 2015, is under way, passengers will have a new service to Lincoln every two hours in addition to the present timetable, though the new franchisee plans to speed up journey times to Leeds and York. It will spend £7.4million on upgrading stations, including a possible 1,000 additional car parking spaces at Peterborough.


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Forty additional carriages, carrying a total of 14,000 extra seats, will be introduced as the number of daily trains on the route rises from 136 to 161.

In due course a new generation of inter-city trains, currently in development for the Department for Transport, will be introduced across the network from 2014.

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National Express, which used to own the Wagn franchise linking Huntingdon and St Neots with London Kings Cross and Peterborough, will pay the Government a total of £1.4billion for the privilege of operating the franchise.

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