Berwick to benefit from new franchise

Berwick-upon-Tweed train station.
Berwick-upon-Tweed train station.

Rail passengers in Berwick are set to benefit from faster and more frequent services and a host of station improvements.

It follows the Government’s announcement that the new East Coast franchise has been awarded to Stagecoach and Virgin.

Berwick is in line to get free WiFi and a new station travel plan. It will also get an improved first class lounge which will be offered for free to community and business groups for use during weekday evenings.

Trains will operate under the ‘Virgin Trains East Coast’ brand. There will be 65 new ‘Super Express’ trains from 2018 with an early multi-million-pound train refresh programme for the existing fleet.

Highlights for passengers include faster journeys to Newcastle and Edinburgh and journey times of just over three hours and 15 minutes to London.

Better value fares are also promised with a 10% cut in Standard Anytime fares on long-distance journeys to and from London.

A host of new technology includes free WiFi on trains, while customers will benefit from at-seat food ordering, simpler ticket purchase and reservations and a new loyalty programme.

There are also improved customer support services including easier and faster compensation for customers through an automated delay repay service.

The franchise, which will see more than £140 million invested, will start in March 2015 and run until 2023 with the option for a one-year extension at the Department for Transport’s discretion.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin MP said: “It will be good for towns and cities up and down the east coast of England and Scotland, and good for our economy and jobs.”

Martin Griffiths, chief executive of Stagecoach Group, said: “Together with Virgin, our innovative plans will give customers new services, faster and more frequent trains, and easier, more personalised journeys.”

Patrick McCall, senior partner, Virgin Group, added: “Our long term partnership with Stagecoach has seen a revolution in customer service standards, great product innovation, reduced journey times and improved timetables on the West Coast mainline.

“We plan to deliver similar success on the East Coast and are looking forward to working with the team there to build on their achievements.”