East Coast railway line through Stevenage brought back under public control

A Virgin Train on the East Coast Main Line. File photo. Picture: Bob Tarling

A Virgin Train on the East Coast Main Line. File photo. Picture: Bob Tarling - Credit: Archant

Rail services on the East Coast Main Line that runs through Stevenage are to be brought back under UK government control, it has been announced today.

The London-to-Edinburgh line, operated by Stagecoach Group and Virgin Trains since 2015, will be put under an “operator of last resort” and rebranded the London and North Eastern Railway, or LNER for short.

LNER will take over the running of the line from June 24.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the House of Commons this afternoon that no decision had yet been taken on the future of the Great Northern franchise, but that Great Northern services coming out of London King’s Cross might be merged into LNER.

He also said it was likely the contract under which Govia Thameslink runs the Great Northern line would be separated into two or more contracts after it expires in 2021, and that he was having talks with the Mayor of London about whether some Great Northern services might be transferred to London Overground.

A Great Northern spokesman told the Comet in response: “The government brought together Great Northern and Thameslink with Southern and Gatwick Express with a purpose and that was to modernise and introduce a new, expanded Thameslink network – which is what we will be doing from Sunday.”

Stagecoach said it and Virgin had been negotiating for a new contract with the Department for Transport but that it understood Mr Grayling was “no longer considering” them for the deal.

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Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths said he was “surprised and disappointed”.

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