Special celebrations planned for Hull Trains’ 21st as passengers return to London route

Passenger numbers are continuing to increase as Hull Trains builds back from the pandemic that wiped 70 per cent of travellers off the rails.

A milestone 21st anniversary of operations will be celebrated early next month, with three periods of ‘lockdown hibernation’ robbing the team of the chance to mark two decades of service in 2020.

Now, as footfall returns to the direct London route – with the latest timetable seeing services back up to six daily return runs during the week – the business is looking ahead to building on a remarkable growth story.

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It launched in September 2000, taking 80,000 passengers between Hull Paragon Station and London’s King’s Cross in that first year.

By 2005 it had carried its one millionth passenger, and by 2018 it had welcomed 10 million.

2019 saw one million fares carried, and with the company named Best UK Train Operator, and frequently topping passenger satisfaction charts, services were further increased as a £60 million investment saw a fleet replacement.

King’s Cross trains on the new platforms, including Hull Trains’s Paragon fleet and LNER’s Azuma.

The high-tech bi-mode electric and diesel trains, assembled by Hitachi in the UK, are one of the most modern and innovative trains on the UK’s rail network.

But the arrival of coronavirus saw passenger numbers fall to 300,000 in 2020 as measures put in place to prevent the spread made running the service unfeasible. It meant the full potential of the fleet went unrealised.

With the open access operator not backed by subsidies like franchise model providers, cloth had to be cut, with jobs lost, but now the business is looking ahead. It will unveil a commemorative 21st anniversary design on the fifth and final addition to the Paragon fleet.

Andy Mellors, managing director for non-franchised businesses at parent company FirstGroup Rail Division, said: “At the heart of Hull Trains’ success has been our customers; the strength of feeling towards Hull Trains from the local community, I believe, is unrivalled.

“Even during the challenging period we have recently faced as a result of the pandemic, the people of Hull and East Yorkshire were unwavering in their support. We would like to thank customers and stakeholders for their support over the last 21 years.

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“Likewise, colleagues at Hull Trains remain just as committed to delivering first class customer service as they did when we first started. Our colleagues are what makes travelling on a Hull Trains service so special.”

The train will depart at 10:33am on Friday, October 8 from Hull Paragon Station on its maiden journey with its new livery.

Mr Mellors, who is overseeing the business following managing director Louise Cheeseman’s recent departure to Transport for London, said: “Passenger numbers are continuing to increase which is great news for the city of Hull and East Yorkshire as direct rail connections to London have played a major role in strengthening the regional economy.”

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