FirstGroup to launch low-cost London–Edinburgh train

The company plans to compete with budget airlines with average fares of £25

Budget airline carriers will soon have a serious ground competition in the United Kingdom. Starting in autumn 2021, FirstGroup will launch a low-cost railway connection between London and Edinburgh with average fares of only $33 (£25).

Brand new Hitachi AT300 high-speed trains will operate the route — Wikimedia Commons FirstGroup to launch low-cost London–Edinburgh train
Brand new Hitachi AT300 high-speed trains will operate the route — Wikimedia Commons

FirstGroup has confirmed an order of brand new Hitachi AT300  intercity high-speed electric trains. The company has closed a $132 million (£100 million) deal with Hitachi Rail, financed by Beacon Rail.

FirstGroup has secured rights from the Office of Rail and Road to run a new open access service between the two capitals. They aim to encourage people to use trains rather than planes. Currently, two-thirds of journeys between the two capitals are made by air.

“There’s a real gap in the market for truly affordable rail travel between the two capitals — our plans show we are serious about competing with low-cost airlines and opening up rail travel on this key route to thousands of new passengers,” said Steve Montgomery, managing director of First Rail’s — UK’s rail franchises operator that belongs to FirstGroup.

The service will comprise five trains a day each way from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh — pio3 / Shutterstock FirstGroup to launch low-cost London–Edinburgh train
The service will comprise five trains a day each way from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh — pio3 / Shutterstock

“The new trains we are introducing will provide the highest level of comfort and service, whilst being great for the environment and air quality.”

Passengers will benefit from the speed over 125 mph (201 kph), onboard catering, or free Wi-Fi connection.

Karen Boswell, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “Our Japanese bullet-train-inspired fleet will play a vital role in supporting FirstGroup’s exciting new service.

“These trains have been designed to increase the number of seats available whilst harnessing the latest in comfort design to boost passenger experiences.

“Today’s deal extends our long-term relationship with FirstGroup, who already use our pioneering intercity trains in other parts of the country to boost reliability and passenger satisfaction.”