How Might New Train Operator Lumo Affect The London-Edinburgh Flight Market?

London-Edinburgh passengers are set to be faced with a new option as of October 2021. Specifically, open-access train operator Lumo will launch low-cost rail services along the East Coast Main Line, connecting the English and Scottish capitals in around four and a half hours. But how might Lumo affect the fight market on this route?

British Airways easyJet
British Airways and easyJet operate flights between London and Edinburgh. Photo: Trevor Hannant via Wikimedia Commons

What is Lumo?

Lumo is a new train operating company owned by First Group. On October 25th, 2021, it is set to begin operating low-cost rail services between London and Edinburgh. First Group won the rights to operate these open-access services back in May 2016. The new journeys were initially planned to commence between the two cities in May 2021.

According to The Independent, Lumo’s initial service frequency will be twice a day. It plans to extend this to five times a day in December 2021. The company aims to compete directly with air travel by winning passengers from this market with low fares.

Operating five-coach Hitachi Class 803 trains configured solely with standard class seats, 60% of one-way journeys on Lumo will cost £30 ($41.50) or less. Journeys will take around four and a half hours, stopping at Stevenage, Newcastle, and Morpeth along the way.

Lumo Train
Lumo’s fares will start as low as £14.90 ($20.61) each way. Photo: Chiltern006 via Wikimedia Commons

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The current air-based offering

In terms of existing air travel options between London and Edinburgh, British Airways and easyJet are the key players. In terms of the UK flag carrier, BA serves the Scottish capital from London’s City and Heathrow airports. On the day of Lumo’s launch, it is set to operate six flights to Edinburgh from each of these bases, with fares starting at £55 ($76).

Meanwhile, budget airline easyJet offers a low-cost option from three London airports: Gatwick, Luton, and Stansted. On the day of Lumo’s launch, each of these bases will see three flights to the Scottish capital, with prices beginning as low as £24.99 ($34.56) from Luton at the time of writing. But to what extent might Lumo disrupt these services?

How Might New Train Operator Lumo Affect The London-Edinburgh Flight Market?
BA and easyJet offer more daily Edinburgh-bound flights than Lumo’s train services. Photo: Getty Images

Will Lumo cause market shifts?

How successful Lumo will be remains to be seen. However, its stop at Stevenage certainly seems to be an astute decision. This station is located just 14 miles (22.5 km) from Luton Airport, and 28 miles (45 km) from Stansted. As such, it shares a catchment area with two easyJet bases, and may succeed in tempting passengers from the region to switch to rail.

Rail journeys like Lumo’s offer greater connectivity in terms of traveling from one city center to another. Despite the journey itself taking longer, passengers may find that this is worth it for Lumo’s low fares, as well as not having to arrange travel to or from the airport.

While Lumo may succeed in tempting air passengers to switch their London-Edinburgh journeys, there are other itineraries to consider. For Scottish passengers connecting onto long-haul flights at BA’s Heathrow base, flying remains the most convenient option. As such, it seems that, for now, air and rail may be able to co-exist in harmony.

How do you think the new Lumo rail services will impact flights between London and Edinburgh? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.