Rail overtakes air for Edinburgh-London travel

FirstGroup announced that its 100% electric rail operator Lumo has achieved two major milestones in its first year — as it attracted one million passengers and witnessed rail overtake air travel to become the preferred mode of transport between Edinburgh and London.

“Since the introduction of its full timetable in April, Lumo has helped to make rail the favoured mode of transport between Edinburgh and London for the first time,” said FirstGroup.

Lumo’s average ticket price is just £37.

“Between April and August, for the first time over half (57%) of journeys between Edinburgh and London were by rail, compared to a pre-pandemic position of 35%,” said FirstGroup.

“Some 63% of travellers chose rail over domestic flights in July itself, suggesting the trend may be set to continue.”

Lumo MD Martijn Gilbert said: “The increase in rail’s share of passengers between London and Edinburgh demonstrates the value Lumo has brought to the East Coast Main Line.

“Not only have we attracted passengers to cleaner transport, we have noticed that other operators have also increased their market share.

“Together we have convinced the public that the convenience, price and environmental impact of rail is well worth it.”

The budget rail operator said it will carry its millionth passenger in November, having run more than 2,500 services, the equivalent of around 4,125 full flights each carrying 180 people.

Lumo estimates that it could have saved the equivalent CO2 emissions of 21,000 homes’ electricity use for an entire year by virtue of its passengers choosing its 100% electric trains rather than flying.

Its fleet has now travelled over one million miles.

“The cheapest Lumo fare currently available between London and Edinburgh is £26.90 and the most you’ll pay this month is £69.80,” said FirstGroup.

“Its trains are on average 86% full. Tickets between Newcastle and Edinburgh are just £9.90.”

FirstGroup CEO Graham Sutherland said: “Lumo underlines our commitment to putting passengers first with innovation and best in class service.

“We have invested more than £100m to ensure Lumo encourages people to choose rail between Edinburgh, Newcastle and London.

“Reaching a million passengers and contributing to a genuine shift in passenger behaviour are encouraging benchmarks for the future as we help to reduce congestion on the roads, improve air quality and facilitate the transition to a zero-carbon world.”

Lumo launched in October 2021 after a £115 million investment by FirstGroup and with its sights set on converting domestic air travellers to rail.

Edinburgh to London remains the UK’s most popular domestic air route with nearly 500 flights every week between the capital cities.

Gilbert added: “It is vital for the economy to have an affordable and sustainable means to travel long distances.

“I know we have opened up the route for people for the first time just by being cheaper than the alternatives previously available.

“Lumo has not changed passenger habits on its own – but the rail network has proven its value, comfort and convenience to passengers convincingly.”