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GNWR a step closer to running extra services on WCML

Great North Western Railway Company (GNWR) has reached an agreement with Network Rail on the sale of access rights to begin the operation of two new direct high-speed rail services on the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

Following a period of industry consultation, which is now underway and due to finish in early July, the open access contract needs only final approval from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) so that the new trains can be ordered, and the recruitment process can begin.

GNWR, a subsidiary of the Arriva-owned Alliance Rail Holdings, plans to operate six return trains a day between London and Blackpool, starting in 2017. It will also run six return trains a day between London and Huddersfield via Manchester Victoria and then continuing on to Leeds, starting in 2018.

The proposal also includes investment in a fleet of eight new Alstom Pendolino trains, and the contract is also expected to create more than 200 new jobs created for this operation, plus significant wider economic benefits across the towns and cities served.

Ian Yeowart, managing director of GNWR, said: “It has taken a significant amount of work since our initial application in 2011 to get to this point where Network Rail has agreed to the sale of access rights.

“There is still some way to go following full approval, as new rolling stock needs to be ordered and a full recruitment process needs to be undertaken. The target dates for operation are set to coincide with the full electrification of the two routes.”

GNWR and Network Rail have been working closely together in developing these new open access proposals on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) for a number of years.

Currently Virgin Trains holds the government contract to run WCML services, but it does not go as far as Blackpool and Huddersfield. Therefore, under the new proposals passengers travelling between London, Manchester and Preston would have a choice of two operators.

However, GNWR’s initial application was to serve four routes, the two listed and also routes to Bradford and the Cumbrian Coast, but with potential timetable and performance impacts on the WCML route, Network Rail is not in a position to agree further access rights at this time.

Yeowart said: “Disappointingly not all our services are deliverable at the moment, but we will continue to engage with Network Rail to try and secure the capacity we need to address the issue in the future.”

RTM spoke to the ORR which confirmed that the industry consultation will last for around four weeks, but would not comment on the proposal itself.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


Jb   13/06/2014 at 18:30

A competing service from Manchester to London as an alternative to Virgin's present monopoly is long overdue and would be most welcome. However, re-introducing a service to St Pancras would be preferred, thus avoiding extra pressure on the WCML and putting Derby on a direct service. Would not Huddersfield be better served via Stockport?

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