RAIL chiefs have claimed that the biggest overhaul of train services in two decades on the premier route through Yorkshire will help revitalise the nation’s beleaguered network. But the start of the service this morning was marked by delays.
The long-awaited revamp along the East Coast Main Line was launched today, representing the biggest shake-up along the route in 20 years.
One of the biggest improvements will see a daily weekday service operating from today which will cut the journey time to under two hours between Leeds and London King’s Cross.
But early this morning Network Rail reported that a broken-down train just outside London was causing delays of up to 30 minutes on the last leg of the journey.
The new timetable is aimed at fostering closer links between Yorkshire’s business world and the capital with the service leaving at 7am and arriving at 8.59am in London.
Journey times to London will also be cut significantly from York, with an average of five additional trains to the capital on a weekday.
Train operator East Coast’s director of communications, Paul Emberley, said: “The introduction of the new services between Leeds and London represents a major watershed as it provides a train journey in under two hours.
“It will give business people the chance to get to the capital before 9am, and it is in response to the huge demand for the improved service.”
A new express service between Edinburgh and London is also being launched to mirror the world-famous Flying Scotsman route. A new locomotive has been named Flying Scotsman to mark the revival of the historic service.
A total of 19 new services will be introduced each weekday, with more than three million seats a year and faster journeys.
Among them are services seven days per week from London to Harrogate and London to Lincoln for the first time in 20 years.
The rail sector came in for the latest bout of swingeing criticism last week when a report by former Civil Aviation Authority chairman Sir Roy McNulty revealed British passengers are paying about 30 per cent more than customers in other European countries.
But East Coast’s managing director, Karen Boswell, claimed the massive overhaul would bring essential improvements to the rail network to ensure it can compete effectively with air travel.
She added: “(The new timetable) represents the biggest improvements to the East Coast route for a generation and will bring more seats, more services and many faster journeys for millions of customers.”
The new Flying Scotsman service will depart Edinburgh Waverley each weekday at 5.40am from today. It will only stop at Newcastle before arriving at London King’s Cross at 9.40am. The original Flying Scotsman main line service began in 1862, taking 10-and-a-half hours to complete.
But it is the launch of the direct services between London and Harrogate that has generated the greatest interest in Yorkshire.
The Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce’s chief executive, Brian Dunsby, claimed the move will bolster the spa town’s multi-million pound conferencing trade by attracting more visitors from the South East.
Harrogate Borough Council’s leader, Coun Don Mackenzie, added: “Finally all the effort to introduce the service has paid off.
“But this is just the beginning, and we would hope more improvements will be introduced once it has been shown there is a real demand for the direct service.”