The first northbound passenger service aboard the new low-cost rail link set off from London for Edinburgh three minutes late – and with three disappointed passengers left on platform 10 at King’s Cross station.
The problem appeared to involve the reservations system and seat allocations for Lumo, the UK’s newest train operator.
But passengers who were able to travel on the slightly delayed 10.45am expressed delight at the low fares on offer; all tickets up to 1 December have been sold at below £20 or less.
“We paid, return, £72 for the three of us,” said Ian Kingswood – who is travelling to Edinburgh with his wife, Ann, and daughter Alice, for a visit to the university.
The family, from Sevenoaks in Kent, benefited from railcard discounts, which reduce Lumo fares by one-third.
“Over the last few weeks we’ve been driving,” said Ann Kingswood. “I’m bored with the M25. And we didn’t want a car in Edinburgh because of the cost of parking.”
“We looked at flying, too,” said Mr Kingswood. “That was a bit more expensive.”
Almost all trains up to 1 December are fully booked, apart from some Tuesday and Wednesday departures.
Happy travellers: Ian, Alice and Ann Kingswood about to board the first passenger-carrying Lumo train from London King’s Cross
A passenger named Mary, from Kennington in south London, was using the Lumo service as the first stage of a journey to Glasgow.
“I booked as soon as it went on sale,” she told The Independent. “Less than £20 each way to Edinburgh is an absolute steal of a journey.
“Competition is really needed. The prices should be encouraging people to take the train rather than drive or fly.”
She added: “I have no idea what to expect, whether it’s a refurbished train or a new one.”
In fact the rolling stock is brand new, part of a £100m fleet ordered by First Group – the Aberdeen-based transport enterprise whose bid won the competition to run “open access” services between the England and Scottish capitals.
Lumo’s managing director, Helen Wylde, rejected the suggestion that fares for the first five weeks of service had been cut too low – leaving no room for late-booking passengers.
“We got the price right. We’re doing really well with our sales. There is a gap in the market. It’s proved the point that, if you make it affordable, people will use the trains.
“As we move forward, 60 per cent of the tickets will be under £30.”
At present Lumo is running two trains a day each way. From December that will increase to four, and from January 2022 five.
The existing operator on the East Coast main line between London, Newcastle and Edinburgh is LNER.
The state-owned enterprise has made no official comment, but the home page of its website reads: “There’s no shortage of places to go on our electric Azuma trains” – believed to be a reference to the only calling points of Lumo being Edinburgh, Newcastle, Morpeth in Northumberland and, on some services, Stevenage.
The three disappointed Lumo passengers were whisked away by LNER staff and carried on the 11am departure from London to the Scottish capital. They are due to arrive in Edinburgh five minutes after the rival train they missed.