National Express East Coast

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National Express East Coast
King's Cross railway station MMB 13 43238.jpg
Franchise(s)InterCity East Coast
9 December 2007 – 13 November 2009 (originally 31 March 2015)[1]
Main region(s)East Midlands, Yorkshire,
North East England, Central Scotland, Northern Scotland
Other region(s)London
Fleet size31 Class 91 electric locomotives

41 InterCity 225 sets

5 Class 180 (never used)
Stations called at53
Stations operated12
National Rail abbreviationGR
Parent companyNational Express

National Express East Coast (NXEC)[3] was a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by National Express that operated the InterCity East Coast franchise from December 2007 until November 2009, when it refused financial support for its franchise. It operated InterCity train services on the East Coast Main Line.


The original InterCity East Coast franchise was awarded to Sea Containers which operated it from April 1996 until April 2005 trading as GNER. Sea Containers was awarded a new seven-year franchise by the Department for Transport from May 2005 with a three-year extension dependent on performance targets being met.[4][5] GNER committed to pay a £1.3-billion-premium to the Department for Transport over 10 years.[6]

However, due to the financial problems caused by it having overbid[7] as well as financial difficulties encountered by the parent company,[8] in December 2006 the government announced it was stripping the franchise from Sea Containers and would put it up for re-tender, with GNER running the franchise on fixed fee management contract in the interim.[9]

In February 2007 the Department for Transport announced that Arriva, First, National Express and Virgin Rail Group had been shortlisted to lodge bids for the new franchise.[10]

In August 2007 the Department for Transport awarded the InterCity East Coast franchise to National Express.[11][12] National Express committed to pay a £1.4-billion-premium to the Department of Transport over seven years and four months. At the time rail analysts had speculated that the company had paid too much for the franchise.[13] National Express East Coast commenced operations on 9 December 2007.


NXEC's principal routes were from London King's Cross to Leeds and Edinburgh Waverley.

In off-peak times, there were three or four trains per hour to and from King's Cross. The following details apply to weekday operations.

Principal routes[edit]


The service between King's Cross and Leeds was generally half-hourly, with all trains serving Wakefield Westgate, most trains serving Peterborough and Doncaster and some serving Stevenage, Grantham, Newark and Retford.


A half-hourly service between King's Cross and Newcastle operated for most of the day, departing from London on the hour and on the half-hour. The 'top of the hour' departures continued through to Edinburgh Waverley (with the 10:00 departure keeping the traditional name Flying Scotsman), with a two-hourly extension to Glasgow Central. These trains generally ran as limited-stop expresses between London and Newcastle, all trains called at York, and most at Peterborough and Darlington, though afternoon and evening departures from King's Cross ran non-stop to Doncaster or York. The trains leaving King's Cross on the half-hour generally terminated at Newcastle and served Stevenage, Grantham, Newark, Retford, Northallerton, Doncaster and Durham as well as Peterborough, York, and Darlington.

Other routes[edit]


There were four trains per day serving Aberdeen departing Leeds at 07:10 and King's Cross at 10:30 (The Northern Lights), 14:00 and 16:00 and Aberdeen at 07:52, 09:52 (The Northern Lights) and 14:50 for King's Cross and 18:16 for Edinburgh with a journey time from King's Cross of just over seven hours. These services were operated by HSTs, as the Edinburgh – Aberdeen line was not electrified.


The Highland Chieftain ran between Inverness and King's Cross with a journey time of just over eight hours, departing Inverness at 07:55 and King's Cross at 12:00. This service was operated by a HST, as the Edinburgh – Dunblane and Dunblane – Inverness lines were not electrified.


The Hull Executive ran between Hull and King's Cross, departing Hull at 07:00 and King's Cross at 17:20. This service was operated by a HST as the Temple Hirst Junction – Hull Line was not electrified.


There was a 06:55 departure from Skipton and Keighley to King's Cross with an 18:03 return. This was an extension of a Leeds – King's Cross service. Though the line was electrified, the service was operated using a HST because the electrical infrastructure on the line was insufficient to support a Class 91 locomotive and the Class 333 EMUs that operate the local services. The Saturday running of the southbound service was the only NXEC southbound service from Leeds not to call at Wakefield Westgate. This service departed from Leeds and headed along the Leeds-Selby Line to join the East Coast Main Line at Hambleton. This was to retain driver route knowledge for diversionary services.

London-Bradford Forster Square[edit]

There was a 06:30 service from Bradford Forster Square to King's Cross with a 17:33 return. This was an extension of a Leeds – King's Cross service and was operated by an InterCity 225 set.


There was a Monday-Saturday 07:28 departure from Harrogate to King's Cross. However, there was no return journey. This was operated by an InterCity 125.

Named trains[edit]

NXEC operated the following named passenger trains:

Proposed routes[edit]


A franchise commitment was to introduce a fifth service out of King's Cross each hour, operating to Lincoln and York on alternate hours from December 2010. It was proposed to lease four Class 90s and Mark 3 sets for use on the Leeds and York services with HSTs being used on the Lincoln services.[14] This was later shelved and five Class 180s were leased instead. It was anticipated that one early morning train would start from Cleethorpes, serving Grimsby Town and Market Rasen, with one evening service to Lincoln extended to Cleethorpes.[15]

Rolling stock[edit]

NXEC inherited a fleet of High Speed Trains and InterCity 225 sets made up of Class 91s hauling Mark 4 Carriages and a Class 82 from GNER. The High Speed Trains were part way through an overhaul program with the Class 43 power cars being repowered with MTU 16V4000R41 engines at Brush Traction and the Mark 3 Carriages refurbished to Mallard standards at Wabtec, Doncaster. This was completed in 2009.

NXEC offered free Wi-Fi to passengers in both first and standard class.[16]

To operate proposed new services from 2010, five Class 180s were leased. They were never used by NXEC with three being sublet to Northern Rail in October 2008.[17]

In 2009 a High Speed Train that had been on lease while the fleet was refurbished, was returned to Porterbrook and sent to First Great Western.


 Trainset   Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Routes operated 
 mph   km/h 
InterCity 125 Class 43 NXEC HST King's Cross AB1.JPG Diesel locomotive 125 200 30 London King's Cross-Aberdeen

London King's Cross-Inverness

London King's Cross-Hull

London King's Cross-Skipton

London King's Cross-Harrogate


Mark 3 carriage NXEC HST King's Cross AB2.JPG Passenger carriage 125 200 117
InterCity 225 Class 91 91111 at Kings Cross 4.jpg Electric locomotive 140 225 31 London King's Cross-Leeds

London King's Cross-Edinburgh

London King's Cross-Glasgow Central

London King's Cross-Bradford Forster Square

London King's Cross-Newcastle

Mark 4 carriage British Rail Mark 4 De-Branded.jpg Passenger carriage 140 225 302
Mk4DVT-82208 at Kings Cross.jpg Driving Van Trailer 140 225 31

Future/proposed fleet

 Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Routes operated 
 mph   km/h 
Class 180 DMU DMU HST 125 200 5 London Kings Cross-Edinburgh


By 2009 NXEC was under increasing financial pressure due to rising fuel prices and the economic downturn. Instead of projected increases in revenue from the franchise, in the first half of 2009 NXEC ticket sales income decreased by 1%.[18]

Due to the revenue shortfall,[19] NXEC introduced a charge of £2.50 per journey leg for seat reservations.[20][21][22]

In April 2009 National Express confirmed that it was still pursuing talks with the government over possible financial assistance with the franchise, either through a reduction in the premium due, or other assistance.[23]

In July 2009 it was announced that National Express planned to default on the franchise, having failed to renegotiate the contractual terms of operation, with National Express stating that it would not provide any further financial support necessary to ensure NXEC remained solvent. This meant NXEC would run out of cash by the end of 2009.[22] As a result, the Department for Transport announced it would establish a publicly owned company to take over the franchise.[24]

In prior negotiations, the company had reportedly offered to pay over £100 million to be released from its commitment to operate the franchise.[18] Transport Secretary Lord Adonis had rejected this on a matter of principle,[18] saying: "The government is not prepared to renegotiate rail franchises, because I'm simply not prepared to bail out companies that are unable to meet their commitments".[22] In defaulting on the franchise, under the franchising system, National Express only directly incurred losses of £72 million by forfeiting bonds.[18]

The franchise failure sparked public and industry calls for the permanent public ownership of the InterCity East Coast franchise, or even the complete scrapping of the entire franchise system.[18] In response, Lord Adonis reiterated the findings of a 2008 National Audit Office report, which had concluded that the rail franchising system delivered good value for money and steadily improving services.[24]

National Express East Coast continued to operate the franchise until 23:59 on 13 November 2009, when the Department for Transport took over through its East Coast subsidiary.[25]


  1. ^ "East Coast rail change confirmed". BBC News Online. 5 November 2009. Retrieved 5 November 2009.
  2. ^ NXEC Trains Limited 05876737 (Companies House extract). Register of Companies (Report). Companies House. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  3. ^ Legal name NXEC Trains Limited.[2]
  4. ^ Strategic Rail Authority (22 March 2005). "Biggest Deal in European Rail History Marks East Coast Franchise Announcement". Financial Express (Press release). Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  5. ^ "GNER wins second franchise term". Railway Gazette. 1 May 2005. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  6. ^ "GNER pays £1.3bn for East Coast franchise". Daily Telegraph. London. 22 March 2005. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  7. ^ Osborne, Alistair (23 March 2005). "GNER's blockbuster bid clinches East Coast Line". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  8. ^ "GNER owner makes Chapter 11 move". BBC News Online. 16 October 2006. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  9. ^ "GNER to surrender top train route". BBC News Online. 15 December 2006. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Four in East Coast rail shortlist". BBC News Online. 20 February 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  11. ^ "National Express wins rail route". BBC News Online. 14 August 2007. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  12. ^ "National Express awarded contract for growth on InterCity East Coast". Department for Transport. 14 March 2007. Archived from the original (Stock Market statement) on 19 December 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  13. ^ Hawkins, Nigel (4 September 2009). "On the buses". Adam Smith Institute. Archived from the original on 5 August 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  14. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 573 29 August 2007 Page 8
  15. ^ "London route 'will boost county'". BBC News. 15 August 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2007.
  16. ^ "NationalExpress > WiFi". National Express. Archived from the original on 9 September 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2007.
  17. ^ Harris, Nigel, ed. (3 December 2008). "Adelantes stay until March". Rail Magazine. No. 606. p. 9. ISSN 0953-4563.
  18. ^ a b c d e "Q&A: National Express and East Coast line". BBC. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  19. ^ Milmo, Dan (18 January 2009). "Rail firm plans £1 seat charge as crunch hits franchises". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  20. ^ National Rail (16 June 2009). "Company Information: National Express East Coast". Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  21. ^ National Express (12 May 2009). "Seat reservations on East Coast and East Anglia train services". Archived from the original on 28 February 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2009.
  22. ^ a b c "East Coast rail to be state-run". BBC News. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  23. ^ Milmo, Dan (3 May 2009). "National Express in talks over scrapping east coast franchise". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
  24. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 June 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ "East Coast rail change confirmed". BBC News. 5 November 2009.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
InterCity East Coast franchise
Operator of InterCity East Coast franchise
Succeeded by
East Coast
InterCity East Coast franchise