Celebrations at Suffolk rail company

OWNERS of 'one' railway were today celebrating after winning Britain's most prestigious rail franchise.And that could make life easier for passengers from Suffolk heading north.

OWNERS of 'one' railway were today celebrating after winning Britain's most prestigious rail franchise.

And that could make life easier for passengers from Suffolk heading north.

National Express (NX) group was awarded the contract to operate the East Coast route, linking London with Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Newcastle, and Leeds, after beating off competition from First Group, Arriva, and Virgin.

The route is currently operated by GNER, and provides a link to the north for passengers from East Anglia through Peterborough.

A spokeswoman for NX said it was planning to introduce more services on the line - with better connections at Peterborough.

And it was also looking at introducing “smart card” technology to make it easier to book tickets - which could be extended to passengers using other NX services like 'one.'

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The new company will be branded National Express East Coast although its colour scheme will not be unveiled until December.

And bosses said today they planned to exploit the romance by the route - possibly by marketing named trains like the Flying Scotsman, the Tees-Tyne Express, and the Talisman.

The current operator has run the route since 1997 and won a competition to retain the franchise in 2005.

But the Department for Transport retendered the deal after GNER's parent company, Bermuda-based Sea Containers, filed for bankruptcy protection in the US last year.

National Express will pay the Department for Transport £1.4 billion during the franchise, which will run until March 2015.

The news is a welcome boost to National Express, which over the last few months has seen it lose its Midland Mainline, Central Trains, and Silverlink franchises in a reorganisation of the rail network.

NX chief executive Richard Bowker said: "We have won with a bid which is ambitious, deliverable and structured to generate shareholder value.''

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