Rail links between London and Yorkshire are to be increased by a third after Virgin Trains was granted permission to run 42 new services a week on the East Coast mainline.
The new timetable has been approved by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) and will make an additional 22,000 seats available each week on trains between Edinburgh and London that stop in Doncaster, Wakefield, Leeds and York.
The provision of four new services daily in each direction from May 16 will mean half-hourly trains to the Scottish and English capitals from West, South and North Yorkshire for much of the day. There will also be two additional services on Sundays.
Virgin Trains is also 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 journeys
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.”
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.”
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. However passenger satisfaction has decreased since Virgin took over the service.
The East Coast Main Line was previously run by the Department of Transport between 2009 and Spring 2015, when Virgin Trains East Coast took over management of the line. Under Department of Transport management, the line achieved a 94 per cent satisfaction rating from customers. This fell to 89 per cent in the first National Rail Passenger Survey after the line was privatised.