Grand Central looks to Cleethorpes

OPEN ACCESS operator Grand Central has had an application for track access rights for additional services on its West Riding route rejected by the Office of Rail and Road. However, it has revealed plans to introduce services to Cleethorpes by splitting and joining trains at Doncaster.

GC’s application to ORR was for an additional early morning service from Wakefield and Doncaster to King’s Cross, arriving in the capital before 07.30, along with a late evening return at 21.50 to Doncaster and Wakefield. It also hoped to introduce calls at Peterborough on these new services and on two of its services to Sunderland.

If approved, the additional services would have brought its West Riding operation up to five trains each way per day, mirroring its North East route. However, ORR rejected the application on the grounds that it did not reach the required ratio on its ‘Not Primarily Abstractive’ test, which assesses the balance of new revenue generated against existing revenue transferred from other operators.

GC managing director Richard McClean has written to ORR to express the operator’s disappointment at the decision. However, Mr McClean has also announced GC plans to submit a track access application for new services to Cleethorpes. These would see GC operate 10-car formations between London and Doncaster, with one five-car unit continuing to Bradford as now and a second running to Scunthorpe, Barnetby, Habrough, Grimsby and Cleethorpes. An application is to be submitted in early 2018, and GC hopes the services could begin in 2020.

The service would be possible thanks to an expansion of GC’s fleet. The company withdrew its three HST sets at the end of 2017, with these now transferring to East Midlands Trains, and is taking on five Class 180s released by Great Western Railway, in addition to the five it already operated. This means its fleet has grown from eight to 10 units, with the opportunity to run units in multiple.

GC’s parent company Alliance Rail Holdings previously applied to run services between Cleethorpes and London under the Great North Eastern Railway (GNER) banner, but these were rejected by ORR in 2016. The new application is different because the splitting and joining means the services would not require additional paths on the East Coast main line between Doncaster and London.