Rail fares between London and Edinburgh are set to tumble from next month.
A new “open access” train operator, branded Lumo, is to take on the state-owned LNER on the East Coast main line – with one-way fares starting at below £15 for nearly 400 miles of rail travel.
From 25 October, Lumo will offer up to 10 services a day between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh Waverley. They will take around four-and-a-half hours and serve Newcastle and the Northumberland town of Morpeth en route – with some trains calling at Stevenage in Hertfordshire, close to Luton airport.
The newcomer is backed by First Group, the Aberdeen-based multinational transport enterprise. The name Lumo is said to combine “illumination and motion”.
The company says: “We take our passengers’ wellbeing extremely seriously and want everyone to arrive refreshed and ready.
”We aim to reimagine what it means to travel by rail and Lumo brings that together in one word.” Its slogan is: “Trains. But Nicer.”
For the first five weeks, from opening day on 25 October to 1 December, every journey will cost £19.90 or less, so long as it is booked by the day before travel. Longer term, Lumo says that 60 per cent of all single fares will be available for £30 or less.
The state-owned operator, LNER, which currently has two trains an hour between the capitals, will continue to have the lion’s share of traffic on the UK’s premier rail line. Lowest fares between London and Edinburgh are typically around £50 – though railcard holders can reduce that fare to £33.
Lumo also aims to attract passengers away from the airlines: British Airways and easyJet currently have more than 20 flights each way to a total of five London airports, with fares typically starting at £47 and £27 respectively.
Helen Wylde, Lumo’s managing director, said: “Travelling in the UK should not cost a fortune and it certainly shouldn’t be the planet that pays.
“We are empowering people to make green travel choices that are genuinely affordable without compromising on comfort.”
The service is aimed squarely at price-sensitive travellers, but will use brand-new rolling stock.
Once the service is established, the operator expects 60 per cent of all single fares to be priced at £30 or less.
Mark Smith, the international rail expert, said: “Finally, a London-Edinburgh train will take on easyJet at their own game, offering low-cost competition on one of the UK’s busiest domestic air routes.
“A ticket from London to Edinburgh on one of these new trains can be cheaper than a ticket from central London to Heathrow, Luton or Stansted.
“People are beginning to realise that climate change is real and they’re looking to reduce their emissions, so I’ve no doubt that this new service will be a success. It could set a precedent for other inter-city routes across the network.”
First Group says the new service is expected to carry more than one million passengers a year once it is established, with Lumo predicted to contribute £250m to the economy over 10 years.