ALLIANCE RAIL Holdings expects a ruling from the Office of Rail and Road on its application to run services between Southampton and London Waterloo under the name Grand Southern Railway by the end of March.
The company hopes to begin operating services in December 2018 using six Class 442 EMUs. Alliance managing director Ian Yeowart told Modern Railways the services would have no impact on any planned by franchisee South Western Railway.
Alliance’s original aim was to begin seven off-peak workings in December 2017, with peak services following a year later. However, a delay in receiving a decision on the application from ORR means Alliance now hopes all the services could start in December. However, Mr Yeowart explained this was subject to the refurbishment programme for the ‘442s’ being completed in time. Unlike SWR, which is to introduce the other 18 Class 442s on the Portsmouth line, Alliance does not plan to fit new traction equipment, but intends to carry out an interior overhaul to bring the units up to the same standard as its current stock on Grand Central.
BLACKPOOL AS WELL
Mr Yeowart said a decision on Alliance’s application to operate services between Blackpool North and London Euston was not expected until later in the year. The company plans to use four shortened InterCity 225 sets released by Virgin Trains East Coast for the services, which would operate under the name Great North Western Railway (GNWR).
Large portions of the West Coast main line are only cleared for 125mph running for stock operating with tilt, and so Alliance has cut some stops from its original plan of using tilting Pendolinos to maintain an end-to-end journey time of around three hours. Mr Yeowart said the company is in discussions with Network Rail and leasing company Eversholt, which owns the ‘225’ fleet, concerning areas where this restriction on non-tilt stock could be lifted.
Electrification of the branch from Preston to Blackpool is due to be completed by Network Rail in time for the May timetable change. A separate application by franchisee Virgin Trains to operate three additional return workings between Blackpool North and Euston using Class 390 Pendolinos is expected to be approved by ORR, allowing these services to start in May.