UK: The Office of Rail & Road has approved open access inter-city operator First Hull Trains’ application for track access rights for a further 10 years from 2019. The FirstGroup subsidiary said this would enable it to go ahead with a £68m plan to order five Hitachi electro-diesel multiple-units which had been announced by the operator on September 3.

Entering service in 2020, these five-car units would be able to work under the 25 kV 50 Hz electrification on the East Coast Main Line from London King’s Cross and then on diesel power on the unelectrified line to Hull and Beverley, eliminating the current need for extensive diesel operation under the wires.

‘The approval of a 10-year track access enables us to deliver our longer term plans, including new bi-mode trains that will be faster than those we operate today’, said Will Dunnett, Managing Director of First Hull Trains on March 23. ‘We will also be able to increase our fleet to five units with more seats on each, meaning a 50% increase in the number of seats for passengers. The ORR’s approval of our track access until 2029 secures the long term future of First Hull Trains, whilst at the same time safeguards and enhances the region’s rail connectivity to the capital.’

The operator is also to spend £0·5m to enhance its current fleet of Alstom Class 180 DMUs, installing onboard CCTV and rolling out screens providing real-time train running information.

  • FirstGroup expects to hear later this year the outcome of its separate application for paths to operate five trains/day each way between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh, designed to compete with low-cost airlines.