Rail passengers in Scarborough could see direct trains to London as early as 2018.
Virgin Trains East Coast has confirmed to The Scarborough News that it is looking to add the service from Scarborough to London, via Malton, when new routes come up for negotiation in 2018.
It follows on from the managing director of Virgin Trains East Coast, David Horne, telling a radio station that he is aware of the popularity of the route from Scarborough to Malton and then on to York.
Speaking last week Mr Horne said: “That isn’t a route [Scarborough to London] the Department for Transport encouraged us to look at as part of the bidding process for the [East Coast] franchise but it is a route that we have been looking at since and indeed with a number of other routes we are looking at how we can build on the timetable that we have agreed with the Department to really maximise the investment in the region.
“So it is something we are looking at, we can’t make any promises at the moment but it is certainly on our radar.”
He added: “It [travelling to Malton and Scarborough] is something we are quite keen to do, it’s an important connecting route.
“We see many customers get off the mainline trains at York and connecting to trains to and from Scarborough so we know that it is a popular route for customers and it’s something we are looking at for the direct trains [to and from London] in the future.”
A spokesman for Virgin Trains on the East Coast told The Scarborough News: “Our franchise agreement doesn’t cover Malton and Scarborough – however, when we get our new high-speed trains in 2018 we’ll have the option to look at a range of new routes and services.”
Malton will also benefit from extra services to and from York when Northern Rail starts a new route later this year.
It will see trains to and from York every 30 minutes.
Transport Minister and Scarborough MP Robert Goodwill said direct trains to the capital would be a great boost for the region.
He said: “This is very welcome news indeed.
“With the extra trains to York coming to Malton and Scarborough the news about London is just as welcome.
“This means that there would be a train every 30 minutes from Scarborough to York, if we can add to that a direct train to London it opens up another avenue for visitors and businesses.
“A direct train to London will be welcomed by our growing business community, I’m sure.”
The train would require some changes on the line, and it could also see the issue of electrification brought to the fore again.
The York to Scarborough line was left out of a mass electrification plan announced last year.
Mr Goodwill said changes would also need to made further down the line at Malton.
He added: “I have already discussed with Network Rail about bringing the second platform into use at Malton.
“This would require the creation of a pedestrian bridge and better disabled access so that will be something we revisit.”
As part of changes coming in this year Scarborough passengers will also be able to enjoy an expanded service to Hull.
More journeys will also be available on weekends as a result of the changes to rail franchises in the North.