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Rail regulator throws out grand plan

Posted on - 3rd March, 2011 - 4:30pm | Author - | Posted in - Business, Transport
Grand Central

Grand Central

A leading train operator has been rebuffed by the rail regulator after its plan to introduce direct services from the Fylde coast to London were rejected.

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York-based Grand Central Railway expressed “surprise and disappointment” after its proposals to reintroduce a direct train service from Blackpool to the capital was thrown out.

The fear of a revenue shortfall for the main franchise operator would cost taxpayers more on top of a inflation busting fare increase next year.

As a result, the Office for Rail Regulation said it “failed our not primarily abstractive test”.

But in a statement the open access operator said: “Grand Central Railway is surprised and disappointed by the Office of Rail Regulation’s announcement today that it must await a ‘full recast of the timetable’ before considering whether or not Open Access Operators can serve destinations along the West Coast Main Line.

“Our timetable for the proposed North Western service was robust and written by the industry expert who drew up the current West Coast timetable whilst at Network Rail.

“Grand Central looks forward to meeting with the Office of Rail Regulation to better understand today’s announcement,” the company said.

Despite rejecting plans the Office for Rail Regulation leaves the door open for new proposals.

The regulator said: “ORR has not at this stage given the go-ahead to plans for services by new ‘open access’ operators on the route. But its approach does leave the door open for such service.”

Virgin Trains service to London Euston departing Preston

Virgin Trains service to London Euston departing Preston

But rail users in Preston could have benefitted from more choice and fare competition.

What could have been the biggest shake up in rail transport in Lancashire has been killed off.

Aiden Turner-Bishop, of the Campaign for Better Transport in Lancashire: “Those decisions are very disappointing because they reinforce Virgin’s anti-competitive monopoly on the West Coast Main Line. It’s overdue that this monopoly was scrapped.”

In 2010, Virgin Trains said to Blog Preston competition was beneficial to the network.

“We are in favour of competition. We would have our own thoughts but that is until the franchise is issued,” said the current intercity franchise holder of the West Coast Main Line.

London Midland’s proposed Preston to Birmingham service was also snubbed because of potential conflicts with more than one operator and capacity constraints on the busy west coast network.

Alliance Rail’s ambitious plans to connect cities in the north to London were also turned down.

The ORR did give the green light for more operational flexibility into the new franchise arriving in April 2012 but Preston’s rail users will lose out once more.

A timetable shake up is not expected for at least two more years. But an overhaul of services will not be completed until 2016.

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