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East Coast (London North Eastern Railway)

What is happening now?

On 24 June, the Operator of Last Resort (OLR) took over the East Coast services. Train will run under the brand name of London North Eastern Railway (LNER) This was announced on 16 May in a speech which can be found here.

Passengers are advised that all tickets will still be valid on the services and trains will continue to run as normal. Information about future LNER services and frequently asked questions can be found here.

The move follows the financial difficulties experienced by VTEC, whose income had not matched the forecasts in their bid. The decision to use the OLR powers was based on the desire to ease the transition to a new East Coast Partnership in 2020 following a franchise competition and in the hope that some benefits may be introduced early.

A new board with an independent chair will oversee the operation of the LNER route.

We will continue to keep current and future passenger priorities at the heart of discussions as work on LNER and the East Coast Partnership progresses.


In November 2017 the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that it would be launching a new ‘long-term regional partnership’ called the East Coast Partnership from 2020. The partnership will see the operator and Network Rail working together, developing future plans and a ‘one-team’ identity and brand.

Inter City Railways, a consortium of Stagecoach and Virgin has run the franchise under the name of Virgin Trains East Coast. The franchise started on 1 March 2015 and was to run for 8 years but has been ended early.

The Intercity Express Programme will see 39 older trains with replaced with 65 new high-speed electric trains by 2020, improving frequency and journey times. New services will be introduced from London to key destinations. This will still take place under the new operators, LNER.

Our role in the franchising process

We will be working with the DfT to understand how plans for the proposed East Coast Partnership will be taken forward. We will seek to ensure that passenger interests are placed at the heart of these arrangements.

When the previous franchise process was re-launched in 2013 we assessed our existing research to ensure that we had sufficient information about what passengers told us were the key issues in the East Coast franchise replacement. We held detailed discussions with the DfT to highlight what passengers would want from the new franchise. We also provided advice on the customer experience and stations elements of the bidders’ delivery plans. We also carried out an exercise on behalf of the DfT to get feedback and aspirations from individual passengers about the East Coast service for bidders to refer to when developing their plans.

Having held discussions with all the shortlisted bidders during their bid development, we continued to work with Inter City Railways on their policies and plans as they mobilised for the franchise.

Our ongoing role

We will work with LNER as they mobilise and commence operations. We will continue to emphasise passenger requirements and expectations. Key to this are the National Rail Passenger Survey results which provide a twice-yearly report on the passenger experience. We will monitor the progress as new trains are introduced and look closely at how LNER services perform.

We will continue in our statutory role in helping passengers with their unresolved rail complaints. Where a passenger has been unable to resolve their complaint directly with the operator, we work with them to achieve a better outcome for the passenger. We use the information from these ‘appeal’ complaints to help the operator understand the root causes of unresolved complaints and continuously improve the customer service they provide.


Our National Rail Passenger Survey gives a twice-yearly perspective on passenger satisfaction. Other reports and research can be viewed below:

Transport Focus reports and publications
May 2018 Transport Focus response to the ending of East Coast franchise
November 2014 Transport Focus response to announcement of award
February 2014 Passengers’ feedback about Intercity East Coast
September 2012 The InterCity East Coast franchise – a consultation response from Passenger Focus.
May 2012 What passengers want from the East Coast rail franchise – An initial submission to DfT
July 2013 What passengers want from the East Coast rail franchise – An initial submission to DfT
July 2013 Passenger Focus welcomes new Intercity Express Programme trains
March 2013 Passenger Focus letter to government and regulator on East Coast Main Line disruption
July 2012 Examining the links between customer satisfaction and performance

Click here for key Department for Transport publications


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