First Rail reveals plans for London to Edinburgh service using Class 803 trains

First Group reveals plans for new train service
Credit: First Group

First Rail has revealed plans for their latest open-access venture, a new low-cost train service linking Edinburgh and Newcastle to London.

The plans continue to gather pace, with new appointments and new trains arriving in the UK.

The service is planned to launch in October 2021.

Helen Wylde has been appointed as Managing Director with Matthew Lee appointed as Commercial and Customer Experience Director.

Additionally, the first of the new Hitachi five-car Class 803s has arrived in Britain for assembly in Newton Aycliffe.

Former Customer Marketing Director at Lloyds TSB General Insurance and Sales & Marketing Director at Parcelforce, Helen Wylde, has joined the business.

Matthew Lee, who joined FirstGroup as a graduate trainee before holding various operational management roles at Great Western Railway, joins the team from MTR Elizabeth line.

Five trains a day will operate each way from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh, serving Newcastle and Morpeth.

Low fares will persuade passengers to make the switch to rail, and business travellers will benefit from the first service of the day from London arriving in Edinburgh by 10:00, more than one hour earlier than is possible now.

What did they say?

Speaking about her new role, Helen said:

“Whilst all of us at FirstGroup are rightly focussed on Covid-19 and maintaining the essential transport networks which key workers rely on to do their jobs, we’re getting ready to work quickly to re-connect people and communities when the present restrictions on travel are over and the country emerges from the effects of the pandemic and begins to return to normal.

“It’s exciting to be joining First Rail to create a new rail service between Edinburgh, Newcastle and London. This new venture will combine high-quality customer experience with low fares to attract both business and leisure travellers away from planes and coaches and onto our trains.

“We have an exciting eighteen months ahead of us to bring the service to fruition, covering everything from the assembly of our new Hitachi trains in the northeast, manufacturing our specially designed seats for greater comfort and ease in Scotland, designing a digitised service, and meeting as many potential customers and stakeholders on the route as possible, so that we can hear first-hand what they believe would make our service great.

“It’s great to see the first of all-electric Hitachi trains arrive in the UK to be assembled by skilled British workers at their Newton Aycliffe factory. These trains will be at the cutting-edge of low-emission rail transport, underlining the benefits of using our service to travel between the two capital cities.

Commenting, Matthew said:

“I’m delighted to have re-joined First Group to launch and operate this new, innovative and exciting service. We will be working with stakeholders and industry partners to make this a success and to grow the rail share of the market by delighting our customers.”

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  1. Following on with the Class 803 East Coast Trains IET is the Class 810 East Midlands Railway IEt that will replace the Class 43 HST Mk3 and Class 222 Meridian DEMUs from 2022. Hitachi have got their work cut out on manufacturing more new AT300 Intercity Express Trains (IETs).

    With the Class 803 to operate on a new London King’s Cross-Edinburgh Waverley (avoiding York). And the Class 810 to operate on London St. Pancras-Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield, Leicester, Loughborough and other intercity services in the East Midlands.

    Hitachi could also manufacture more AT200 Commuter trains (Class 3xx or Class 7xx) and the AT100 Metro trains (Class 3xx, Class 4xx or Class 7xx) that could be built for GTR Southern to replace the Class 455 and Class 313.

  2. I wonder what the seats would be like on the Class 803. Probably the same as on the Class 800, Class 801 and Class 802. No doubt what Hitachi have made and manufactured the Intercity Express Trains that can reach speeds up to 140mph (225km/h). But are limited to 125mph (201km/h) on the East Coast Main Line and Great Western Main Line and 100mph (160km/h) on most other major lines.

  3. Help me out with this one please.
    the 800/801/802 are bi modal, to be able to move under OHLE when problems occur or
    even on non electrified routes. So Network Rail is allowing these new 803’s (non bimodal) also to run and possibly in front of the 800/801/802’s. So when OHLE do problems occur(and they will) – what am I missing?


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