VIRGIN Trains is to increase weekend services between Scotland and the north east of England following a spike in passenger numbers.
Six new departures between Edinburgh and Newcastle will be added from this weekend in a new boost to the east coast timetable.
They include later services from Edinburgh on Friday and Saturday evenings and three new trains connecting the UK and Scottish capitals on Sundays.
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The additional services will provide more capacity than ever as passengers plan festive breaks, shopping trips and visits to relatives in the run-up to Christmas and Hogmanay.
It follows news that 5000 more Virgin Trains passengers are crossing the border every week after a timetable shake up in May which delivered 42 additional services between Edinburgh, Newcastle and London.
An additional 26 departures per week have been introduced at Morpeth, in Northumberland, with the later Edinburgh departures also calling at Dunbar, Berwick-upon-Tweed and Alnmouth.
The new timetable takes effect from December 11 and will add 22 new services, 12,000 additional seats per week and dozens of extra stops to the network. It comes as Virgin Trains nears completion of a total overhaul of its entire train fleet.
The boost has been welcomed by Transport Minister Humza Yousaf, who said: “This increased connectivity between Scotland and the North East of England is to be welcomed as the East Coast main line is a key transport corridor supporting economic growth between and within the regions. Demand for rail travel, including the leisure market, continues to grow - this increased service provision, particularly enhanced weekend and later evening services, will offer opportunities for passengers and businesses alike.”
The development comes ahead of the introduction of the state-of-the-art fleet of Azuma trains in 2018, which will transform journeys on the east coast route. New services to Stirling and Sunderland were launched in 2015 after Virgin Trains took over the east coast route.
David Horne, Virgin Trains’ managing director on the east coast route, said: “More people are choosing to travel with us than ever before and have given us great feedback about the customer service improvements we’ve made. We know that there’s particularly strong demand at weekends so we’re delighted to be able to provide more services than ever for people travelling between Scotland and England.”