First Group unveils plans for East Coast open access service

Photo: Peter R Foster IDMA/

First Group has announced plans for a new open access intercity rail service between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh.

The operator has submitted a track access rights application to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) to run a new service on the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh, via Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth.

First Group, which already runs open access services through First Hull Trains, hopes to introduce its new offering from 2018 and has said the service will be served by a fleet of new trains.

Primarily, the service will look to compete for passengers with budget airlines.

Tim O’Toole, First Group’s chief executive said: “These innovative plans will give customers travelling between London, the North East of England and Edinburgh an attractive alternative to flying.

“We hope to entice passengers away from budget airlines through our low fares and high-quality trains. Open access operators can really add value and create passenger loyalty by serving niche markets. Our current company First Hull Trains remains an exceptional example of how passengers can benefit from this type of operation.


“We have put our compelling case to the ORR and we are looking forward to hearing the outcome of our application.”

An industry consultation will be held over the next few weeks.