Are they now going to scrap railway buffet cars?

The current breakfast service on East Coast trains in First Class
The current breakfast service on East Coast trains in First Class
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THE company set to take over the East Coast rail franchise today insisted that its new inter city trains stopping at Leeds will have buffet cars despite a union’s claim that they will be trolley-only.

New rolling stock being built by Japanese firm Hitachi will come into service on the London to Edinburgh service in 2018 as part of the Government’s InterCity Express Programme.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union claimed today that tweets by the company showed the new East Coast trains, and those used on First Great Western routes, would not have a standard class buffet car.

A tweet from the Hitachi Rail Europe account said: “At present standard class just have a cart provision in Standard Class.”

But a spokeswoman for Stagecoach-Virgin, whose joint venture Inter City Railways will run the East Coast franchise from this year, denied that this meant trains passing through Yorkshire would not have buffet cars.

She said: “We’ve already made our position very clear on this and there is no change to our current position.

“It is our clear intention to have a buffet car on the new trains being used for the new Virgin Trains East Coast franchise and we are already in discussion with Hitachi regarding the internal configuration and specification required to deliver the buffet car. That position has not changed.”

According to the firm, the buffet car “would be located in standard class but would be available for all customers on the train”.

A later tweet by Hitachi about the Class 800 series trains, the first of which are being prepared for shipping from Japan, said there was “scope to introduce buffet facilities if new franchisee wants to offer this to passengers”.

The RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash said the Government was planning to “introduce an ‘Upstairs-Downstairs’ service on Britain’s long haul rail services which would condemn the vast majority to pay through the nose to travel in rammed-out carriages where the catering trolley is jammed at one end while the elite glide through the country like extras from Downton Abbey”.

Demonstrations were held last month at Kings Cross Station in London as well as at Cardiff Central Station, one of the bases for the Great Western Main Line which will also use the new trains made by Japanese firm Hitachi.

The union says it opposes proposals for “driver-only operation and the removal of buffet cars and their replacement by a trolley service only catering facility, the sacking and reducing of the safety critical operational role of train guards/conductors as well as station de-staffing and ticket office closures.”

Hitachi’s Class 800 series trains are scheduled to be in operation from 2017 on the Great Western Main Line and from 2018 on the East Coast Main Line.

According to the Government, the new trains will bring faster services and additional capacity to the line between London, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

As well as building a new assembly base in the UK, Hitachi is constructing maintenance depots in Bristol, Swansea, west London and Doncaster.

Stagecoach-Virgin said last month that “some of its most exciting plans involve the on-board catering offer, where we will have at-seat food ordering and hot food available to passengers in standard class”.

A Department for Transport spokesman said last month that fixed kitchens and trolley facilities were included in the base design of the trains. He added: “There is scope to introduce buffet facilities if the new franchisee wants to offer this facility to its passengers.”

A previous proposal to scrap restaurant cars on Yorkshire to London trains proved hugely controversial. Current operator East Coast eventually rolled out a revamped “at-table” service for first class passengers.