Virgin Trains has handed over the reins of the East Coast business to London North Eastern Railway (LNER).
The operator, which is 90% owned by Stagecoach Group and 10% by Virgin Group, has also prepared for the next phase of improvements in customer services with the introduction of the state-of-the-art fleet of 65 Azuma trains from this December.
Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive of Stagecoach Group, said he was proud of the achievements made during Virgin Trains’ tenure, despite the contractual challenges it faced.
He said: “Our people can be fiercely proud of everything they’ve achieved: from delivering huge investment and high levels of customer satisfaction, to providing new services and benefits for passengers and creating hundreds of new jobs.
“The growth we’re now seeing proves our initiatives are paying off and the railway we hand over to LNER is not only better than we inherited, but one that has been positively transformed for customers and ready to continue our journey of improvement with the introduction of the new Azuma train fleet from December.”
Virgin Trains took over the east coast route, which connects London to stations in the north and Scotland including York, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness, in March 2015.
Over the last three years, the operator has completely overhauled the train interiors, investing in more reliable train engines and introducing innovative features for customers such as Seatfrog, an auction allowing customers to bid for upgrades to First Class.
More than £800 million has been paid to taxpayers, an increase of more than 30% on previous payments to Government under DOR.