The East Coast mainline between London, Newcastle, and Edinburgh is experiencing the largest shake-up in decades.
A new “open access” train operator, branded Lumo, is to take on the state-owned LNER on the UK’s flagship rail link: the 393-mile journey between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh Waverley.
One-way fares are offered starting at PS15
What is happening?
Five years ago, bids were open for private companies to operate trains between London and Edinburgh. This was in competition with LNER, the incumbent state-owned railroad company. First Group, which is based in Aberdeen won the contest and will invest PS100m to operate the service.
Lumo will start offering two services per day between London and Edinburgh starting 25 October. They call at Stevenage (close by Luton airport), Newcastle, and Morpeth in Northumberland. The frequency of these services will rise to five daily trips per day as more trains are built.
What is the cost of this?
This service is targeted at price-sensitive travelers. Every journey booked before the day of travel, for the first five weeks (from opening day on 25 Oct to 1 Dec), will be priced at PS19.90 or lower. Lumo claims that 60% of single fares will be offered for PS30 or less in the long-term. On-the-day, the most expensive “walk up” ticket is expected to be at PS69.
What time will it take?
Between London and Edinburgh, the full Lumo trip takes approximately four-and-a half hours. Fast trains on LNER take just four hours and twenty minutes. The flight time between the capitals takes around 90 minutes.
What will be the response of rivals?
LNER knew for many years that competition was coming and has already revised its schedules next year to offer quicker journey times between Edinburgh & London – in just four hours flat. This beats Lumo on speed.
This state-run company offers first class and offers railcard discounts on LNER.
Air Passenger Duty adds PS13 per flight to every airline’s cost. This hinders their ability to respond. Additionally, the cost of journeys from one city to another will rise due to the increased costs of rail, bus, and tram connections between airports and cities they serve.
A flight from Edinburgh to Glasgow is more efficient and faster than the train if you are traveling from Dundee to Brighton.
What impact will this have on other operators?
ScotRail is not directly affected, but it could have an impact on the number of passengers who travel by rail through Edinburgh.
CrossCountry operates trains from Edinburgh to Newcastle and may feel some heat. It’s possible that the Caledonian Sleeper might lose a little business, especially northbound from London, if Lumo slots into an early service that arrives to Edinburgh much earlier than the first LNER train.
Avanti West Coast, part of First Group, could be the biggest loser. This is especially true if tourists from Stirling or Falkirk are attracted to cheaper fares from Edinburgh, and then switch to the West Coast mainline.