FirstGroup on track to compete on East Coast mainline thanks to Burges Salmon train deal

March 26, 2019

The rail industry team at Bristol-headquartered national law firm Burges Salmon has advised long-standing client FirstGroup’s East Coast Trains subsidiary on a procurement deal to add new trains to its fleet.

East Coast Trains has been granted open access rights to compete against East Coast Main Line intercity operator LNER (formerly Virgin Trains East Coast) from 2021 with up to five return services a day between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh. 

It is to operate the service with a new fleet of five, five-carriage AT300 trains, pictured, to be manufactured by Hitachi.

Once delivered, the rolling stock – which is similar to the new trains used on FirstGroup’s Great Western service between Bristol and London Paddington – will be leased by East Coast Trains from Beacon Rail.

The Burges Salmon team advising on the deal was led by senior associate Chris Lewis with partner support from Simon Coppen and assistance from members of the firm’s banking and projects teams.

Chris Lewis, pictured, said: “We are pleased to have advised FirstGroup on this strategically important new fleet acquisition, which adds to its growing portfolio of new, state-of-the art rolling stock. 

“The new fleet will enable FirstGroup to provide a new high-quality rail service between Edinburgh and London.”

FirstGroup has said tickets between the two capital cities will average around £25 – meaning travelling between by train will be comparable to flying with a low-cost airline.

First Rail managing director Steve Montgomery added: “We’re excited to announce the next step to providing our high-quality low fare service for customers linking London and Edinburgh.

“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 will provide the highest level of comfort and service, while being great for the environment and air quality.”

Burges Salmon’s rail team has a strong reputation in the industry, having worked with many franchise operators on train leasing, procurement and other matters.


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