East Coast (train operating company)

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East Coast
Eastcoast toc logo.svg
91 128 Kings Cross(8077556150).jpg
Class 91 locomotive at London King's Cross in August 2012
Franchise(s)InterCity East Coast
14 November 2009 - 28 February 2015
Main region(s)Greater London
East of England
East Midlands
Yorkshire and the Humber
North East England
Fleet size31 Class 91 electric locomotives

30 InterCity 225 sets

14 InterCity 125 (HST) sets
Stations called at53
Stations operated12
Parent companyDirectly Operated Railways
Reporting markGR
PredecessorNational Express East Coast
SuccessorVirgin Trains East Coast
East Coast Route
Blair Atholl
Dunkeld & Birnam
Glasgow Central
Edinburgh Waverley
Bradford Forster Square
Wakefield Westgate
Newark North Gate
London King's Cross London Underground

East Coast, the trading name of the East Coast Main Line Company,[1] was a British train operating company running the InterCity East Coast franchise on the East Coast Main Line between London, Yorkshire, North East England, and Scotland. East Coast ran long-distance inter-city services from its Central London terminus at London King's Cross on two primary routes; the first to Leeds and the second to Edinburgh via Newcastle with other services reaching into Yorkshire and Northern and Central Scotland. It commenced operations on 14 November 2009 and ceased on 28 February 2015.[2]

East Coast was a subsidiary of Directly Operated Railways, formed by the Department for Transport as an operator of last resort when National Express refused to provide further financial support to its National Express East Coast (NXEC) subsidiary and consequently lost its franchise.[3] The franchise was re-nationalised on 14 November 2009, with the intention being that operations would return to a private franchisee by December 2013.[4] In March 2013 the Secretary of State for Transport announced that this would occur in February 2015 instead.[5]

In January 2014, FirstGroup, Keolis/Eurostar and Stagecoach/Virgin were announced as the shortlisted bidders for the new franchise.[6][7][8] The franchise passed to Virgin Trains East Coast on 1 March 2015.[9][10][11]

Principal services[edit]

In May 2011, East Coast introduced a major new timetable known as "Eureka".[12] The Eureka programme also introduced complimentary catering in First Class.[13]

London – Leeds[edit]

This was the busiest[citation needed] East Coast service – half-hourly, with one train per hour serving Peterborough, Doncaster, Wakefield Westgate and Leeds, while the other served Stevenage, Grantham, Doncaster, Wakefield Westgate and Leeds. At weekends, they called at Stevenage every two hours while Peterborough, Grantham, Newark, Doncaster and Wakefield were served hourly.

London – Newcastle[edit]

East Coast operated a half-hourly service between King's Cross and Newcastle (one fast, one semi-fast) throughout the day, departing from London on the hour and the half-hour. The top-of-the-hour trains were part of the London to Scotland services which ran as limited-stop expresses between London and Newcastle (as seen below). The half-hour train called at Peterborough, Newark, Doncaster, York, Northallerton, Darlington, Durham and terminated at Newcastle, although there was an extension of this service to Edinburgh every 2 hours. At weekends, all daytime services to Newcastle continued through to Edinburgh, with some going non-stop. Late evening services terminated at Newcastle.

London – Edinburgh[edit]

This was East Coast's flagship route, serving the whole length of the East Coast Main Line; an hourly service from London to Edinburgh Waverley, calling at York, Darlington, Newcastle, Berwick-upon-Tweed and Edinburgh. Some of these trains also called at Peterborough. Occasionally there was a half-hourly service to Edinburgh with some Newcastle trains extended at peak hours. At weekends all services on the half-hour continued to Edinburgh from Newcastle.

During the day, services to London King's Cross from Edinburgh ran every 30 minutes, one fast and one semi-fast. All trains called at Newcastle and most at Berwick upon Tweed, Darlington and York. In May 2011 East Coast re-introduced the historic Flying Scotsman service. This was an early-morning service to London King's Cross with a journey time of four hours, departing Edinburgh Waverley at 05:40, calling only at Newcastle at 07:03 and arriving at London at 09:40.

London – Newark/York[edit]

An hourly service ran between King's Cross and Newark, calling at all intermediate stations. This was extended to York every two hours, serving Retford and Doncaster and at peak times was extended to Newcastle. These services operated only on weekdays. Additional services also start/terminated at Doncaster or Peterborough at peak times.

A Map of East Coast Services showing the service pattern each hour and extensions

Limited service[edit]

London – Glasgow[edit]

There was only one direct through train per day in each direction between King's Cross and Glasgow Central departing Glasgow at 06:50 and departing King's Cross at 15.30 as an extension of a London to Newcastle service also calling at Edinburgh. There were no East Coast service to Glasgow on Saturdays.

London – Aberdeen[edit]

These trains were extensions to the hourly London-to-Edinburgh service. There were three trains per day each way between King's Cross and Aberdeen, departing at 10:00 (The Northern Lights), 14:00 and 16:00 (weekdays only), the journey time being just over seven hours. There was also one service per day in each direction between Leeds and Aberdeen. These services were operated by InterCity 125 sets, as the Edinburgh to Aberdeen line and York to Leeds section via Garforth were not electrified. This route crossed the historic Forth, Tay and Montrose bridges.

London – Inverness[edit]

This was an extension of a London-to-Edinburgh service with a daily service operating between King's Cross and Inverness, departing at 12:00 with the southbound service departing Inverness at 7:55 (09-40 Sundays), named the Highland Chieftain. The journey took just over eight hours and was operated by InterCity 125 sets, as the line between Edinburgh and Inverness was not electrified.

London – Bradford[edit]

One train per day in each direction ran between Bradford Forster Square and King's Cross via Leeds. This used an electric InterCity 225 train as the route was fully electrified. This service offered the fastest journey time of 1hr 59m, only stopping at Wakefield Westgate on the way to London.

London – Skipton[edit]

There was a morning train from Skipton to King's Cross with an early evening return.

This was an extension of the London to Leeds service. Though the line to Skipton was electrified throughout, the East Coast service to/from the town was initially operated using a diesel HST because the electrical infrastructure on the Leeds to Skipton line was insufficient to support a Class 91 locomotive in addition to the Class 333 electric multiple units that operated the local services from Leeds to Skipton.

However, tests took place on 16 January 2011 for the operation of InterCity 225s on this service.[citation needed] From the timetable starting 22 May 2011, the evening return train from Kings Cross was worked by an InterCity 225 (Monday – Fridays only).[14]

The Saturday run of the outward service was the only East Coast service serving Leeds not to call at Wakefield Westgate: after Leeds, this service took the route via Micklefield and Hambleton Junctions to Doncaster. Although the other trains to/from Skipton used the InterCity 225, the Saturday run of the outward service used the InterCity 125 because the alternative route used was not fully electrified.

London – Lincoln[edit]

From May 2011, a direct train ran between King's Cross and Lincoln Central, with one service per day in each direction as an extension of the London – Newark service. This service used a diesel InterCity 125 set as the Nottingham to Lincoln line was not electrified.

London – Hull[edit]

The Hull Executive ran between King's Cross and Hull, with one train per day each way. This service also used InterCity 125 sets, as the Hull line was not electrified. More frequent services between King's Cross and Hull were operated by First Hull Trains.

London – Harrogate[edit]

There was a daily morning departure from Harrogate to King's Cross and an evening return. This service used a diesel InterCity 125 set as the Harrogate Line was not electrified.

Named trains[edit]

East Coast operates a number of named passenger trains, including:

Name Origin Destination Other details
Flying Scotsman London King's Cross Edinburgh Waverley Service began 1862 in both directions; named by the LNER in 1924
Highland Chieftain London King's Cross Inverness 1tpd both ways, the longest East Coast route
Hull Executive London King's Cross Hull
Northern Lights London King's Cross Aberdeen 1tpd both ways

Rolling stock[edit]

East Coast inherited the rolling stock operated by NXEC, comprising Class 43 diesel sets with their Mark 3 coaching stock (InterCity 125), and Class 91 electric locomotives and Mark 4 coaches (InterCity 225).

The original franchise holder, GNER, undertook a major refurbishment of its rolling stock from 2003, which it titled "Project Mallard". Between 2003 and 2005, the Mark 4 carriage fleet was upgraded and refurbished, while work started on refurbishing the Mark 3 coaches under GNER in early 2007. This work continued under NXEC, with the final InterCity 125 set completed in October 2009.[15]

Until October 2010, East Coast offered free Wi-Fi to passengers in both first and standard class. From 5 October 2010, a charge of £4.99 per hour or £9.99 for 24 hours was introduced for Standard Class passengers, with a 15-minute free allowance.[16]

As part of a repaint of the InterCity 225 fleet, they were repainted into East Coast's silver livery. The repaint was started in June 2010 with the first full set (excluding loco) being released on 30 July 2010. The idea is that a plain base livery can be easily customised for any future operator of the franchise.[17]

 Trainset   Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Routes operated 
 mph   km/h 
InterCity 125 Class 43 Grantham railway station MMB 55 43251.jpg Diesel locomotive 125 200 32 London Kings Cross-Lincoln Central, Harrogate, Hull Paragon, Aberdeen & Inverness. Also Skipton-London King's Cross (Saturdays only) and Leeds-Aberdeen
Mark 3 carriage Darlington railway station MMB 13.jpg Passenger carriage 125 200 117
InterCity 225 Class 91 91 106 Kings Cross(8077572452).jpg Electric locomotive 140 225 31 London Kings Cross-Leeds, Bradford Forster Square, Newark North Gate, Skipton, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh Waverley & Glasgow Central
Mark 4 carriage British Rail Mark 4 coach in East Coast 2011 livery.jpg Passenger carriage 140 225 302
British Rail Mark 4 DVT in East Coast 2011 livery.jpg Driving Van Trailer 140 225 31

Cancelled future fleet[edit]

Originally East Coast were to receive five Class 180 Adelante DMUs. Due to a reduction in the number of extra services, and with Directly Operated Railways stating its unhappiness with the Class 180 units,[18] they were sent to First Great Western for use on the Cotswold Line instead.

East Coast investigated using one 11-coach Pendolino from July 2011[19] but decided instead to lease an extra HST set from East Midlands Trains from May 2011, bringing the number of HSTs leased to 14.[20]

Locomotive naming[edit]

The fleet of Class 91 locomotives inherited by East Coast has carried various names up until 2008. In 2011, in response to customer requests, East Coast resumed the practice. It began by naming 91109 as Sir Bobby Robson, unveiled in a ceremony at Newcastle station on 29 March 2011 by his widow Elsie and Alan Shearer, patron of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, which the company was also now a supporter of.[21][22]

On 2 June 2012, 91110 was renamed "Battle of Britain Memorial Flight" by Carol Vorderman at the National Railway Museum as part of the Railfest 2012 Event.[23]

On 16 February 2013, 91107 was renamed "Skyfall" and temporarily returned to its original "91007" number to mark the James Bond film of the same name, which featured trains extensively and became the highest-grossing film of all time in the United Kingdom.[24]

On 14 October 2014, 91111 was unveiled to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I. The specially-designed East Coast locomotive, named 'For The Fallen', carries a livery filled with images, stories and tributes to regiments and people who served in them across the East Coast route.[25]


The public performance measure (PPM) shows the percentage of trains which arrive at their terminating station on time. It combines figures for punctuality and reliability into a single performance measure. The moving annual average PPM for East Coast by the end of its franchise (P12 2014-14) was 88.2%.[26]


East Coast paid back over £1 billion to the government over the course of its franchise.[27]

Loyalty scheme[edit]

East Coast inherited the 'escape' loyalty scheme from National Express which was eventually rebranded as East Coast Rewards. The original scheme involved giving benefits to customers who spent over £1,750 in a three-month period on East Coast tickets. Benefits included first class lounge access for the member and a guest, discounts at partner retailers, 20% off online advance ticket booking and a large number of free first class travel tickets.

As this scheme had a high barrier to entry East Coast launched a revamped loyalty scheme in 2011 which was points based and included all spend on the East Coast website even if booking travel for other operators. The scheme meant rewards such as free travel were now within reach of a greater number of passengers as only a modest spend was required to earn benefits. The scheme initially launched with online bookings only but was then expanded to cover season tickets and business travel.

TV series[edit]

In November 2013 Sky1 started to broadcast a documentary series "All Aboard East Coast Trains".[28] One of the InterCity 225 sets was painted in a special blue livery which includes faces of employees that feature in the programmes in order to promote the series.[29]

Final day of service[edit]

On 28 February 2015 (East Coast's final operating day) Virgin branding and posters began to be implemented at stations. East Coast's website, Twitter and Facebook were updated overnight to reflect Virgin's branding.


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 4659708
  2. ^ "East Coast rail change confirmed". BBC News. 5 November 2009. Retrieved 5 November 2009.
  3. ^ "East Coast rail to be state-run". BBC News. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  4. ^ "National Express East Coast franchise" (Press release). Department for Transport. 1 July 2009. Archived from the original on 18 July 2009.
  5. ^ "Railway plan puts new focus on passengers" Secretary of State for Transport statement 26 March 2013
  6. ^ "Three bidders announced in competition for East Coast rail franchise". STV News. 17 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  7. ^ East Coast rail shortlist revealed BBC News 17 January 2014
  8. ^ InterCity East Coast franchise shortlist announced Railway Gazette 17 January 2014
  9. ^ More seats, more services and new trains for East Coast passengers Department for Transport 27 November 2014
  10. ^ Stagecoach and Virgin win East Coast mainline rail franchise BBC News 27 November 2014
  11. ^ 3.3bn premium wins East Coast franchise for Stagecoach and Virgin Railway Gazette 27 November 2014
  12. ^ Rail Professional https://www.railpro.co.uk/railpro-magazine/magazine-archives/eureka-moment
  13. ^ Business Traveller https://www.businesstraveller.com/news/2010/11/15/east-coast-to-offer-free-meals-in-first-class/
  14. ^ http://www.eastcoast.co.uk/Documents/22%20May/Monday%20-%20Friday.pdf
  15. ^ "Final East Coast HST set handed over", Railway Herald, Issue 200, p. 5.
  16. ^ "East Coast > WiFi". National Express. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
  17. ^ "'Silver link': East Coast IC225s to be reliveried". The Railway Magazine. London. 156 (1308): 6. April 2010. ISSN 0033-8923.
  18. ^ Miles, Tony (November 2009). "DOR evaluates alternative to Adelante sets". Modern Railways. London: 74.
  19. ^ "Test Pendolino for East Coast line raises Virgin hackles". RailNews. Stevenage. 13 August 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  20. ^ "East Coast leases 14th HST from May". Rail. Peterborough (669). 4 May 2011.
  21. ^ "Sir Bobby Robson name given to train". BBC News Online. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  22. ^ "East Coast Names Train Sir Bobby Robson" (Press release). East Coast. 29 March 2011. Archived from the original on 29 March 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  23. ^ "Railfest 2012". York: National Railway Museum.
  24. ^ http://www.film-news.co.uk/show-news.asp?H=Skyfall-stars-to-unveil-Skyfall-train-in-London&nItemID=17417
  25. ^ "EAST COAST UNVEILS MOVING TRIBUTE 'FOR THE FALLEN'". East Coast. 14 October 2014. Archived from the original on 19 December 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  26. ^ "Network Rail Performance figures (updated every four weeks)".
  27. ^ "East coast mainline pays taxpayers £1bn sparking fresh reprivatisation fury". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  28. ^ http://sky1.sky.com/sky1hd-shows/all-aboard-east-coast-trains
  29. ^ https://www.flickr.com/photos/ash_3939/10578104923/in/photostream/

External links[edit]

Preceded by
National Express East Coast
Operator of InterCity East Coast franchise
Succeeded by
Virgin Trains East Coast