Following a judicial review (which went against incumbent East Coast operator GNER) new train firm Grand Central seems set to operate competing services from next December
Following a judicial review (which went against incumbent East Coast operator GNER) new train firm Grand Central seems set to operate competing services from this December.
Grand Central says it hopes to operate a three times a day service between Sunderland, York and London Kings Cross from December 10. Provisional Monday to Saturday schedules (Sunday timings are not yet finalised) show trains departing Kings Cross at 0804, 1127 and 1650 arriving in York at 1006, 1319 and 1844 and reaching Sunderland at 1150, 1450 and 2035. North of York there will also be stops at Thirsk. Northallerton, Eaglescliffe and Hartlepool.
Southbound trains will leave Sunderland at 1653, 1230 and 1730 with a departure from York at 0847, 1410 and 1906. Arrival in Kings Cross will be at 1042, 1605 and 2108 rsepectively.
Grand Central is owned by bus and coach operator Fraser Eagle which is the operator often used to provide rail-replacement services at weekends. The company will use 125 mph diesel trains for these new services configured with conventional first and standard class seating.
The train firm promises more user friendly fares. Flexible fares will be reasonably priced at £55 and £60 return for Kings Cross to York and Sunderland respectively with first class at £110 and £120. It also pledges to offer passengers a 50 per cent cash refund when they have to stand on longer journeys.
Rival firm GNER has vigorously opposed Grand Central's arrival on its 'patch.' GNER is part of the financially troubled Sea Containers group and according to a report in this week's issue of industry magazine Rail it reckons half its profits could be wiped away by Grand Central's arrival.
York is a particular money-spinner for GNER. The city has no immediate airport or motorway links so countless visitors arrive by rail. Its station also acts as an important rail junction for Yorkshire and the North of England with GNER feeding passengers to the regional rail operators.
GNER (which is paying the government £1.3 billion for its rail franchise over the next 10 years) may mount a further legal challenge against the government's decision to allow Grand Central to enter the East Coast market.
Report by Alex McWhirter