Richard Branson reveals East Coast high speed rail hopes

Sir Richard Branson has told of his desire to bring high speed Virgin Trains to the East Coast Main Line

Sir Richard Branson at Virgin Money at the Regent Centre, Gosforth
Sir Richard Branson at Virgin Money at the Regent Centre, Gosforth

Sir Richard Branson has raised the prospect of Virgin Trains running high speed services on the East Coast.

Sir Richard is already in the bidding to take over the nationalised East Coast Trains service due back in private sector hands by February 2015.

The Government’s plans to privatise the route is strongly opposed by many individual Labour MPs, especially in the North east where Labour has joined with unions in fighting the plans.

Any eventual East Coast success for Virgin will come as plans continue for High Speed trains set to radically disrupt services through Newcastle in two decades times.

Speaking in Newcastle, Sir Richard said he had previously tried to get then Prime Minister Tony Blair to back his plan for a high speed railway line which would go all the way up the East Coast.

He said: “Those people who travel on our west coast service love it, we have transformed it and we think we can radically improve the East Coast Main Line. I think the vast majority of people on that service would think there is room for improvement, and that is something we would love to do.

“We once submitted to the Government a plan for a high speed line up the East Coast line, it was rejected in Tony Blair’s day.

“We are following the new rules to bid for the East Coast service, but we can say the current train times will be speeded up. There will be improvements on time.

“One day, though, I think a high speed line up the East Coast makes sense. I have walked the route actually, it was fun and you can see it makes sense.”

Current plans for High Speed Rail do not see any new lines built to the North East. The route will go from London to Birmingham before lines divide for Manchester and Leeds. Trains will then travel on existing lines further north, with services to Scotland going up the West Coast and Newcastle becoming a branch end. Consultation documents for the High Speed Rail route suggest a slower, stopping service will be used for people travelling between Newcastle and Scotland.

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