London North Eastern Railway (LNER) operates long-distance intercity services on the East Coast Main Line, which runs from London Kings Cross to North East England and Scotland
The company is owned by the Department for Transport (DfT). LNER took over the InterCity East Coast franchise in June 2018, after the previous privately owned operator Virgin Trains East Coast returned it to the Government following sustained financial difficulties. The DfT intend for the company to provide services until a new public-private partnership can be established in 2020. In November 2017, the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, announced the early termination of the InterCity East Coast franchise in 2020, three years ahead of schedule, following losses on the route by operator Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), who had been due to pay more than £2 billion in franchise premiums to the Government over the last four years of its contract.
This was brought forward in February 2018 to mid-2018. The Department for Transport (DfT) decided to either negotiate a deal with VTEC to continue to run the franchise on a temporary non-profit basis while a new franchise competition was conducted, or to arrange for VTEC be taken over by the DfT’s operator of last resort. On 16th May 2018 it was announced that the latter had been decided and that LNER would take over from VTEC on 24th June 2018.
The DfT also announced that LNER would be the long-term brand applied to the InterCity East Coast franchise. As part of the overall strategy for the East Coast franchise, the Secretary of State for Transport stated that Great Northern services could potentially be integrated into the operation when the Thameslink Southern & Great Northern franchise expires in 2021.