Regulator rejects Alliance’s WCML open access application

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has rejected proposals by ‘open access’ train operator Great North Western Railway (GNWR) to provide new direct train services between London and Blackpool from May 2017, and between London, Huddersfield and Leeds from December 2018.

Ian Yeowart, managing director of GNWR, said: “We are naturally disappointed with the ORR’s decision, especially as we reached agreement with Network Rail in May last year that there was sufficient capacity to operate these trains on the West Coast Main Line and across the Pennines.”

The application was for firm rights to operate six daily off-peak return services

between Queen’s Park in London and Blackpool North and six daily off-peak return services between Queen’s Park and Leeds (starting December 2018). It also included contingent rights between Queen’s Park and London Euston.

The rights were requested until December 2027. GNWR proposed to lease eight

newly built six-car Pendolinos in order to operate the service and to invest in stations.

The new application dealt with the uncertainty around future capacity at London

Euston by seeking firm rights for capacity as far as Queen’s Park and contingent rights between Queen’s Park and Euston. GNWR anticipated that output from the HS2 Euston working groups being led by Network Rail would help determine the capacity that will be available to train operators while HS2 is being built and would in time allow Network Rail to agree firm rights into London Euston for all relevant operators.

Consultees, including DB Schenker, TransPennine Express (TPE), Northern Rail, and West Coast Trains (Virgin Trains), questioned the lack of timetabling details. Consultees, including East Coast Main Line Company, Freightliner, GB Railfreight,

London Midland, Northern and Virgin Trains, questioned the availability of capacity on the WCML; Freightliner and Transport for London questioned the availability of capacity at Euston.

Yeowart said that GNWR is now undertaking a detailed review of the ORR’s decision

letter in order to decide what steps to take next. In the meantime, its sister company GNER (Great North Eastern Railway) will continue with its application, which was lodged with the ORR early in 2014, to operate new fast services between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh, and to Cleethorpes and Bradford.

  • For more information, see RAIL 766, published on January 21.


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