King’s Cross station in London, 9.30am, and not only is the atmosphere electric, the transport is, too. As the all-electric Lumo train glides onto Platform 8, there is no smell or smoke. It’s about to embark on its inaugural journey towards Edinburgh.

It may not be quite as funky as the Hogwarts Express, due any minute on Platform 9 ¾, but it is writing its own little chapter in railway history. The new train is incredibly easy on the eyes. Its shiny, electric-blue carriages make the station’s most visible.

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

Lumo is competing with the state-owned LNER as well as the airlines, including BA and easyJet

Lumo is competing with the state-owned LNER as well as the airlines, including BA and easyJet

It’s a no-frills train service, without first-class carriages, giving 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, costs from as little as £14.99 (with 60 per cent of tickets priced at £30 or less).

There are more positive slogans at the official launch event than at a Tory Party conference. ‘The Future’ proclaims a banner at the entrance to the concourse. On the train itself, ‘Travel Well’ and ‘Beyond Expectations’ are emblazoned in large letters. There is optimism in the air and a sense of adventure.

Lumo will operate two services per day starting Monday. More services are planned for the New Year. The project has been five years in the making and attracted more than £100 million of investment. ‘Our brief was to reimagine rail,’ explains Helen Wylde, managing director of Lumo, in a speech of welcome.

It is hard not to agree with her that rail travel in Britain needs to be rethought. While we love the old steam trains, we are less fond of their modern heirs.

Eco alternative: The all-electric Lumo train launched this week, making its inaugural journey from King's Cross station

Eco alternative: This week saw the launch of the all-electric Lumo train, which made its inaugural journey from King’s Cross station. 

Only 8 percent of the population, which excludes daily commuters and other commuters, uses trains regularly. This is a national scandal. Wylde says that while LNER is a key Lumo objective on the London-Edinburgh route, the real battle is with the airlines, such as BA and easyJet.

The goal is to get people off those nasty aeroplanes and onto a more affordable, greener alternative. Will it work? The matter will be settled by market forces as always.

It is a worthy project, for all kinds of reasons. The East Coast Main Line, especially the section along the Northumberland coast, is one of the most beautiful train rides in Europe.

The inaugural journey was performed by Tom Walker, a Scottish singer. He speaks out for thousands of people who travel between England and Scotland regularly, but are currently getting a poor deal.

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’m 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 recently did, they are quite happy to come by train but tend to grumble about the prices and so I can imagine some of them becoming Lumo regulars,’ he says.

How does this ambitious newcomer to the railway block compare to the rest? I had traveled to Edinburgh on Lumo. I also travelled back on a standard LNER route the same day so I could compare. Here’s my score card…

Price of the ticket In the initial roll-out of Lumo services, one-way tickets can be pre-bought for £19.90, and less with a railcard. On the LNER Edinburgh to London service, I paid £79.

Seats Lumo has 400; LNER 700. Lumo had approximately three-quarters of an in more legroom, according to my calculations. The seats were slightly more comfortable because they were angled than the LNER ones.

Taking into account the hour-and-a-half spent in the airport before the flight, it takes around two hours and 45 minutes to fly to Edinburgh with easyJet

It takes approximately two hours and 45 minutes to fly from Edinburgh with easyJet, taking into account the time spent at the airport prior to the flight.

ToiletsLumo loos were more than just spotless, as was to be expected on a maiden voyage. They were twice the size of the cramped LNER loos. It was a bonus.

Wifi connection: LNER’s connectivity was only marginally better on that day, but this may be due to Lumo’s teething problems.

Refreshments: Prices were broadly comparable, although Lumo undercut its rival on most staple items (orange juice £1.60 on Lumo, £2 on LNER), while also underscoring its commitment to environmental sustainability with a range of plant-based foods.

Journey time: The journey to Edinburgh took just over four-and a-half hours on Lumo, and the return journey with LNER took just four-and a-half hours.

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

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

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

Entertainment Lumo offers its customers a free on-board entertainment system.

The TV and film shows include everything from Peaky Blinders to Joker. The company’s green agenda is highlighted by documentaries on the environment like Carbon Conundrum or Australia On Fire. LNER does not have a comparable entertainment system.

Overall verdict Lumo has won. Regular travellers between London, Edinburgh and other cities have every reason to celebrate.

But how well has Lumo’s management done their research and assessed their market? What will the airlines do? Only time will tell.