A consortium involving Sir Richard Branson’s train company Virgin Trains has been chosen to run the East Coast main line franchise from next year.

And there are plans for direct links to Huddersfield and Dewsbury.

The Department for Transport (DfT) this morning confirmed the consortium involving Virgin and transport company Stagecoach, who already run the West Coast line, will start the East Coast franchise in March 2015.

Under the terms of the eight-year franchise there will be:

23 new services from London to key destinations, with 75 more station calls a day

Plans for direct links to Huddersfield, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Dewsbury and Thornaby

Proposals for more trains to London from Bradford, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Leeds, Lincoln, Newcastle, Shipley, Stirling and York

3,100 extra seats for the morning peak time by 2020

Across the entire train fleet there will be 12,200 additional seats - a 50% increase

65 state-of-the-art Intercity Express trains brought into passenger service from 2018, totalling 500 new carriages

Journey times from London to Leeds reduced by 14 minutes, and from London to Edinburgh by 13 minutes

A £140 million investment package to improve trains and stations

Over the next eight years Inter City Railways will pay the Government around £3.3 billion to operate the franchise.

East Coast rail operator plans
East Coast rail operator plans
 

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “This is a fantastic deal for passengers and for staff on this vital route. It gives passengers more seats, more services and new trains.

“We are putting passengers at the heart of the service. I believe Stagecoach and Virgin will not only deliver for customers but also for the British taxpayer.

“This Government knows the importance of our railways. That is why they are a vital part of our long-term economic plan, with over £38 billion being spent on the network over the next five years.”

The award of the new franchise marks a return to the private sector for East Coast which has been run by the DfT since 2009 following the withdrawal of National Express.

There has been speculation that a consortium of Eurotunnel and French company Keolis which is 70% owned by French state railway SNCF, had been chosen as the new East Coast operator.

But Eurotunnel/Keolis have now missed out, as have the other shortlisted bidder, FirstGroup which has recently also lost its First Capital Connect and ScotRail franchises.

Grand Central currently runs direct links to London from Mirfield and Brighouse.