UK regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has approved applications submitted by Virgin Trains East Coast and FirstGroup for new services on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) between London and Edinburgh.

Planned to be introduced in stages, the services are expected to benefit passengers travelling to a number of destinations, including Middlesbrough, York, Newcastle, Morpeth, Lincoln, Leeds, Bradford, Harrogate, and Stevenage.

Three operators submitted applications to ORR in 2014 and 2015 requesting new services on the ECML, which were analysed to find benefits they would bring to passengers and the effect on public funds.

ORR also considered benefits of competition and whether they would make best use of capacity on the route.

"These new train services will give passengers greater choice on services to Edinburgh and London."

Applications from the Great North Eastern Railway Company (GNER) were not approved.

ORR Railway Markets and Economics director John Larkinson said: "These new train services will give passengers greater choice on services to Edinburgh and London and provide more frequent trains to towns and cities that are not currently so well-served by rail.

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"We thank all applicants, Network Rail, and other participants for their thorough input and engagement throughout this process.

"Our decision has been informed by extensive analysis, formal industry hearings, and detailed engagement with all parties.

"We have carefully weighed up potential passenger benefits and financial impacts on existing operators and the government, as we are required to do by law."