GRAND CENTRAL has confirmed its new open access service between Blackpool North and London Euston will start in spring 2020.

The services were approved by the Office of Rail and Road in June 2018 and were originally planned to be operated by Alliance Rail under the name Great North Western Railway (GNWR). The company says the mobilisation project has been transferred from Alliance and GNWR to sister Arriva company Grand Central to best make use of a larger pool of expertise and resources. Grand Central currently operates open access services on the East Coast main line from Bradford and Sunderland to London.

GC’s proposed timetable for the Blackpool service includes five return services on Mondays to Saturdays and four on Sundays, calling at Poulton-le-Fylde, Kirkham & Wesham, Preston, Nuneaton and most at Milton Keynes Central. GC says it will be recruiting drivers and on-board crew for its Blackpool traincrew hub in the coming months. The application made to the ORR stated 2+7 Class 91/Mk 4 formations would be used for the service, although it is understood Class 90s hauling Mk 4s are now the preferred option.

The Blackpool North branch has seen a boost in services following the line’s electrification, with Virgin Trains introducing three additional return workings between the resort and Euston in May 2018, operated by Class 390 Pendolinos (p58, last month).


Colin J. Marsden

Early morning in Devon: the annual trip of the ‘Royal Scotsman’ luxury train to the West Country was on 9 July 2019, when the 10-car set powered by ‘Royal Scotsman’-liveried Class 66s Nos 66743 and 66746 formed train 1Z80, the 04.20 Gloucester to Newton Abbot, before returning to Bath – when patrons were able to take breakfast while travelling along the South Devon sea wall. In what our photographer describes as ‘stonking summer light’, the train is seen passing through the Powderham estate near Exeter at 06.41.