Virgin Trains has been given permission to introduce 42 new services a week between Edinburgh and London this May, boosting seat capacity by 22,000 a week on the route – an increase of nearly a third (32%).
Customers travelling between the capitals and through Yorkshire will see four new services daily in each direction from May 16, ensuring a half-hourly frequency throughout most of the day. Two additional services will be added on Sundays.
The timetable boost is expected to lead to an upsurge in cross-border travel and comes as Virgin Trains undergoes a £21m refurbishment of its fleet – including brand new leather seats in first class, new standard class seating, carpets and lighting.
Tickets for the new services will go on sale later this week after the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) approved Virgin Trains’ timetable plans.
To celebrate the introduction of the services, Virgin Trains is releasing thousands of £25 Edinburgh-London fares (in each direction) for the new timetable, which will see 25 southbound services per weekday from Edinburgh. These will be on sale for two weeks from this Friday (19th).
In a further innovation, Virgin Trains is extending the booking horizon during which it is possible to book tickets from the industry standard of 12 weeks to 24 weeks, making it easier to plan ahead for holidays, visits and other trips.
The move has been welcomed by the UK and Scottish governments’ respective transport ministers.
UK Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “This is welcome news for passengers travelling between Edinburgh and London and demonstrates that Virgin Trains are delivering on their commitment to bring extra services and seats to this important route. The UK government knows how important the railways are to keeping Britain connected, which is why we are investing over £38 billion on the network in this parliament. The increase to Scottish services is evidence that this franchise is delivering real improvements for passengers.”
Derek Mackay, Scottish Government Minister for Transport and Islands, said: “This increased frequency of cross-border Virgin services between Edinburgh and London is good news, giving passengers more choice of services and helping to spread the pressure on existing services. I welcome these enhanced timetables, the greater connectivity they offer between Scotland and the south east of England and the benefits that they will bring to the rail passenger experience and economies of locations along the route.”
David Horne, Virgin Trains’ Managing Director on the east coast route, said: “This is a major boost for our customers travelling between Edinburgh and London who will be able to catch a train every half-hour for most of the day. We have seen how increasing capacity and frequency adds to the popularity of train travel and we’re confident that customers will respond positively to these changes. Feedback on our new train interiors, many of which have been fitted out at Craigentinny depot in Edinburgh, has been incredibly positive and customers are telling us they love the fresh, new look.”
More than a million people travel on Virgin Trains’ Edinburgh-London services per year and the route already enjoys a half-hourly frequency at peak times.
The timetable boost comes after Virgin Trains took over the east coast franchise in March last year, promising to drive up standards and attract more people to rail.