When I was asked to remove the VTEC Businesss Plan I made the following comment.

If East Coast was still run by the government this information would be accessible via Freedom of Information requests, unfortunately private operators aren't obliged to provide this info to the public.

So apparently at least one curious member of the public did just that and they had asked under FoI for a copy of their business plan back in 2013 and it was sent to them under FoI legislation. Unfortunately we can't use the FoI rules to get the other years (as East Coast is no longer public), so if someone happens to have copies from other years of East Coast then please forward them on. Please note: to avoid legal issues we'll only publish documentation that's being made available via a Freedom of Information request.

Download the East Coast 2013-14 Business Plan here.

It's a different style of document to the VTEC one, this was obviously intended to go to a larger audience and was produced in booklet form. 

Some interesting points from this booklet.

  • There was no Catering Lottery in East Coast times! According to the table on page 37 there was 99% of trains that were run with the 'Planned catering offer'. That's quiet an amazing figure. I'm sure they still monitor this statistic but I doubt VTEC would be willing to publish their own figures on this.
  • The business plan mentioned a lot about employee satisfaction. From pages 23-25 they talk about current employee satisfaction levels and how to improve it.
  • Page 11 mentions a brand vision "of having the most loyal customers of any travel company in the UK" - VTEC surely destroyed that one, those who spend the most are now taken for granted.
  • East Coast Rewards was mentioned seven times in the document and was obviously considered a success and a key driver for future growth.
  • The improvements made to First Class in 2011 resulted in a 21% overall increase in First Class journeys (p 3), with London-Edinburgh increasing by 39%. The improvements to first class included the new catering offering and the first class quiet coach (which is getting abolished later on in May). East Coast Rewards may also have played a role in first class take up.
  • East Coast had invested more than £40 million in investment (p 3) up to when this document was produced in 2013. Although this is less than what VTEC spent on investments it does seem East Coast spent what they had more wisely. They had to do a lot in the early years to undo the damage caused by the neglect of National Express towards the end of their franchise and then they were setting the foundations for a strong East Coast product with the new catering offering, Rewards and ensuring that their employees were happy.

I think anyone who remembers East Coast and has read through this document will consider the comment from Richard Branson as complete nonsense: "When the operation of East Coast line was under public ownership before us there was little investment and the services were not modernised". Just to re-enforce the point there's a picture of a class 800 train (now known as Azuma) on page 7 in East Coast livery. On page 17 it also mentions that East Coast intended to fully refurbish the interiors of their existing fleet, so like the new trains, this was something that was going to happen regardless of operator, it would just mean that the seats would probably not have been red!

I challenge anyone to read that document and not come to the conclusion that things would have remained better as East Coast. As the document mentions it was always the plan to hand over to a private operator but this was delayed because of the farce on the west coast in 2012, but East Coast was building a firm foundation for the next operator to take over. Unfortunately we ended up with VTEC who had ambitions but as well as overbidding have made some terrible decisions going forward. Rather than trying to enter with a splash the new operator could have just built on the excellent work of their predecessor. 

The final paragraph on page 34 makes me feel a bit sad, how different things could have been...

Every one of us has a part to play in shaping the future so that in 2020, whoever is our owner, we are still providing the best possible journey experience, and East Coast is still a great place to work.