The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has approved Great North Western Railway’s (GNWR’s) bid to operate open access services between Blackpool and London from May 2018, under a ten-year contract.
Six return trains per day will run between Blackpool and Queen’s Park (London), with contingent rights between there and Euston. GNWR intends to operate into Euston, although Network Rail has been unwilling to sell firm access rights due to uncertainty about capacity at the station during HS2 construction works.
Trains will call at Crewe, Preston, Poulton-le-Fylde and Blackpool, with contingent rights to stop at Milton Keynes, Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield Trent Valley and Kirkham & Wesham. GNWR intends to acquire four new six-car Pendolino electric multiple units for the service, but does not expect them to begin operation until early 2018 owing to the length of time it will take to procure the trains.
GNWR Contract Manager Jonathan Cooper told RAIL the company is “fairly confident” trains will operate into Euston and other stations to which it has contingent rights from the start of the timetable, and praised NR for its work on the deal: “We are very grateful to Network Rail for its buy-in. It has been difficult to get this off the ground, and without NR’s help we might not be there.”
Contracts are expected to be signed with Alstom for the Pendolinos in February 2016, and Cooper said options for additional vehicles are likely to be included in the deal. GNWR is also promising what it calls a “step change” in interior fitments compared with the Virgin West Coast Class 390s, although details have not been finalised.
- For more on this news story see RAIL 781 on August 19 2015