UK: FirstGroup has finalised an order for five Hitachi AT300 electric trainsets which it will use to launch a London – Edinburgh open access service in autumn 2021.

The £100m deal completed on March 20 is being financed by Beacon Rail Leasing and includes 10 years of maintenance by the manufacturer.

FirstGroup already operates the Hull Trains open access service between London and Yorkshire, and its East Coast Trains Ltd subsidiary has secured a 10-year track access agreement for the London – Edinburgh service.

A service of five trains a day each way is planned, calling at Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth with a journey time of around 4 h.

FirstGroup is specifically aiming to attract the two-thirds of passengers travelling between London and Edinburgh who currently fly, with the first service from London King’s Cross expected to arrive in Edinburgh by 10:00 to attract business passengers from air.

It plans to offer an ‘average fare of less than £25’, with the 200 km/h five-car 25 kV 50 Hz trainsets having a single class of accommodation with on-board catering, air-conditioning, power sockets and free wi-fi.

‘We’re excited to announce the next step to providing our high-quality low fare service for customers linking London and Edinburgh’, said First Rail Managing Director Steve Montgomery. ‘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. The new trains we are introducing will provide the highest level of comfort and service, whilst being great for the environment and air quality.’