Jo Johnson: What the East Coast Main Line shake-up means for passengers and staff

YORKSHIRE needs, and deserves, a strong and reliable rail network.

Rail Minister Jo Johnson has issued reassurances afetr the East Coast Main Line was taken back into public control.
Rail Minister Jo Johnson has issued reassurances afetr the East Coast Main Line was taken back into public control.

Across the country, railways are the engines of growth, regeneration and economic opportunity. By transporting people and goods quickly and efficiently, we open opportunities for our businesses, create the links that can drive forward housing development and boost productivity by getting commuters to work on time.

Critical to this is a thriving East Coast Main Line. Providing rapid connections between Yorkshire’s towns and cities, it is at the heart of our ambition to help the region reach its incredible potential.

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Our absolute focus is always to build a railway that makes journeys better for everyone, putting the needs and expectations of passengers first.

Whether it’s for important meetings or family visits, going on holiday or chasing the Tour de Yorkshire through God’s Own County, we know that every journey is important.

When we announced the decision to transfer responsibility of this line and recreate the London and North Eastern Railway, we were absolutely clear that this decision was about what is best for passengers.

Under Virgin Trains’ tenure, we have seen significant improvements in terms of upgrades and passenger satisfaction – 92 per cent of passengers already tell us that they are happy with their travel experience, but our ambition is to improve this.

It is a significant task to recreate a historic brand – the London and North Eastern Railway – last seen in 1948. Re-establishing LNER is not just a nod to the past, but a move to the future, paving the way forward to building a stronger East Coast Partnership.

I want to reassure all passengers that, in spite of what may seem major changes, there is no need for concern. Whether you’ve recently booked a journey or renewed a season ticket, there is nothing to do and nothing to worry about. All tickets remain valid and all customers will be able to book their travel in the normal way.

Put simply, all trains, tickets and timetables remain exactly the same. Putting London and North Eastern Railway in place means we can deliver a seamless transition on the East Coast.

This will also help us drive forward the improvements we want to see in place.

Preparations are firmly underway to introduce brand-new, state-of-the-art, intercity express trains to deliver more comfortable, spacious and accessible services.

We are taking steps to adopt pioneering digital technology on the East Coast Mainline, to cut delays, significantly improve mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity and maximise the number of trains running every hour

Creating the East Coast Partnership also puts a skilled, unified team in charge of the railway, ensuring that our absolute focus is delivering further upgrades to make journeys better for passengers.

It is also important at this time to reassure the fantastic staff who work on Virgin Trains East Coast. It is their exceptional work that has seen such high standards achieved and so much progress made under VTEC. That is why we are determined to create a railway that these brilliant employees are proud to work on.

I can reassure them that the changes announced this week will have no impact on whatsoever on their continued employment. To help build a stronger East Coast railway where staff are at the heart of its success, the former chief executive of John Lewis and Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, will provide his expertise – ensuring employees continue to be instrumental in delivering better journeys.

For passengers in Yorkshire, I believe the steps we announced are progress towards delivering more frequent, reliable and comfortable journeys. For employees, it is a cast-iron guarantee to make them even more fundamental to the continued success of our railways.

Under the London and North Eastern Railway, I look forward to delivering a transport network fit for Yorkshire’s future.

Jo Johnson MP is the Rail Minister.