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Lumo has launched itself to take on UK rail rivals and budget airlines. This is how they compare

At King’s Cross Station in London, at 9:30 a.m. M., And not only is the atmosphere electric, transportation is too. There isn’t a puff of smoke or fumes as the sleek new all-electric Lumo train glides onto Platform 8 for its maiden voyage to Edinburgh.

It may not be as funky as the Hogwarts Express, due out any minute on Platform 9 ¾, but it’s writing its own little chapter in railroad history. The new train is extraordinarily pleasant to look at. Its bright electric blue cars are by far the brightest things on the station.

Owned by Aberdeen-based FirstGroup, Lumo (brand name is a crafty synthesis of ‘lightness’ and ‘movement’) is a new open access operator taking on the state-owned LNER on the East Coast Main Line .

Lumo competes with state-owned LNER, as well as airlines, including BA and easyJet.

Lumo competes with state-owned LNER, as well as airlines, including BA and easyJet.

It is a simple train service, without first class cars, which gives it a democratic air.

And it’s not just one of the cleanest, it’s also one of the cheapest. London to Edinburgh, one-way, starts at just £ 14.99 (with 60 per cent of tickets priced at £ 30 or less).

At the official launch event next to the platform, there are more feel-good flying slogans than at a Conservative Party conference. ‘The future’ proclaims a banner at the entrance of the lobby. On the train itself, “Travel Well” and “Beyond Expectations” are stamped in large letters. There is optimism in the air, a sense of adventure.

Lumo will run two services a day starting Monday, with more planned for the New Year. The project has been in development for five years and attracted more than £ 100 million of investment. “Our goal was to reinvent the railroad,” explains Helen Wylde, Lumo’s CEO, in a welcome speech.

It’s hard to argue with her that UK train travel needs an urgent rethink. We all get sentimental about old steam trains, but we are much less in love with their modern heirs.

Green Alternative: The all-electric Lumo train launched this week, making its maiden voyage from King's Cross Station.

Green Alternative: The all-electric Lumo train launched this week, making its maiden voyage from King's Cross Station.

Green Alternative: The all-electric Lumo train launched this week, making its maiden voyage from King’s Cross Station.

Only 8% of the population, excluding commuters, use trains regularly, which is certainly a national scandal. And while competing with LNER on the London to Edinburgh route is a key Lumo goal, the real battle, Wylde explains, is with the airlines, including BA and easyJet.

The plan is to steer people away from those naughty planes and go for a cheaper and greener alternative. It will work? Market forces, as always, will settle the matter.

But it’s certainly a laudable project for all kinds of reasons. Apart from everything else, the East Coast Main Line, particularly the stretch along the Northumberland coast, offers one of the most beautiful train journeys in all of Europe.

Scottish singer Tom Walker, who performed on the maiden voyage, speaks for the thousands who regularly travel between England and Scotland but are currently being treated unfairly.

It costs approximately £ 166.60 to fly to Edinburgh from London with British Airways

It costs approximately £ 166.60 to fly to Edinburgh from London with British Airways

It costs approximately £ 166.60 to fly to Edinburgh from London with British Airways

“I am based in North London, but my family and many of my friends live in Glasgow. When my relatives come to visit me, as my grandmother did recently, they are very happy to come by train, but they tend to complain about the prices, so I imagine that some of them will become regular customers of Lumo, ”he says.

How does this ambitious new kid from the railroad block keep up with the competition? Having traveled to Edinburgh on Lumo, I traveled back, the same day, on standard LNER service as far as I could compare. Here’s my scorecard …

Price of admission: At the initial launch of Lumo services, one-way tickets can be purchased in advance for £ 19.90 and less with a train card. On the LNER service from Edinburgh to London, I paid £ 79.

Seating: Lumo has 400; LNER 700. I calculated that there was about three-quarters of an inch more legroom on Lumo. The angle of the seats also made them a bit more comfortable than the more upright LNERs.

Considering the hour and a half spent at the airport before the flight, it takes around two hours and 45 minutes to fly to Edinburgh with easyJet.

Considering the hour and a half spent at the airport before the flight, it takes around two hours and 45 minutes to fly to Edinburgh with easyJet.

Considering the hour and a half spent at the airport before the flight, it takes around two hours and 45 minutes to fly to Edinburgh with easyJet.

Bathrooms: Not only were Lumo’s bathrooms spotless, as you would expect on a maiden voyage, but they were also twice the size of LNER’s straits. A bonus.

WiFi connection: Connectivity on LNER was slightly better on the day, but this may be due to initial problems on Lumo.

Snacks: Prices were broadly comparable, although Lumo downgraded its rival on most commodities (orange juice £ 1.60 at Lumo, £ 2 at LNER), while underscoring its commitment to environmental sustainability with a range of plant-based foods.

Travel time: The trip to Edinburgh on Lumo took just over four and a half hours, the return trip with LNER just under four and a half hours.

Max paid £ 79 for his LNER ticket to London, and the journey took just under four and a half hours (file photo)

Max paid £ 79 for his LNER ticket to London, and the journey took just under four and a half hours (file photo)

Max paid £ 79 for his LNER ticket to London, and the journey took just under four and a half hours (file photo)

Stops: Lumo’s standard London to Edinburgh service will stop only at Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth. LNER serves more stations. The train I took stopped at Berwick upon Tweed, Newcastle, Darlington and York.

Entertainment: Lumo has its own free inflight entertainment system, the kind that Virgin customers will be familiar with.

Movies and TV shows range from Joker to Peaky Blinders. Emphasizing the company’s green agenda, there are also environmental documentaries such as Carbon Conundrum and Australia On Fire. There is no comparable entertainment system at LNER.

Overall verdict: A clear victory for Lumo. Regular travelers between London and Edinburgh have every reason to celebrate.

But how well have Lumo owners done their sums and judged their market? And will the airlines give their own answer? Only time will tell.

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