Grand Central Railway have promised cheaper fares, spacious trains and better storage if its proposed direct rail link from Lancashire to London are approved.Advertisement
The open access operator submitted plans to run four return services between Blackpool and London stopping at various North West stations including Preston. It already runs identical regional services from Bradford and Sunderland straight to the capital.
A cut-price fare policy means cheaper walk-on fares according to Grand Central and will help drive down price at Preston Railway Station on the intercity route.
Although despite pledges of more affordable fares, customers will pay less for a service up to 30 minutes slower than current National Rail timetabling from Preston.
Rail passengers currently pay £281 for an on-board single ticket on Virgin Trains from Preston to London and the York-based company has vowed to slash prices – and undercut the franchise operator as they did on the East Coast – if their bid is successful.
Grand Central director Charles Belcher said the open access operator had contributed to significant improvements in customer service on the East Coast Main Line raising standards along the way, and he aimed transform the West Coast route.
“Our fares will be easy, one fare whether you buy in advance, at the station or on the train,” he said adding: “We will be operating big, spacious trains that passengers really like.”
“We are confident our proposals generate new business to rail, brings people in off the roads; introduce journeys to those people without a direct service,” added the former Managing Director of Virgin Trains on the West Coast.
Similar strategies on Grand Central’s North East operations resulted in more price competition and lower prices with East Coast, the operator on the East Coast Main Line.
If granted permission from rail authorities to commence services, operations will start in May 2012 alongside the winner of the 14-year West Coast franchise.
Mr Belcher also hinted at further potential to link parts of the country underserved by franchise operators, suggesting cross country routes could become a viable option in the future.
The Department for Transport submitted their own proposals to serve Blackpool with six direct services to London which may hamper a Grand Central plan to serve Lancashire.
The Office for Rail Regulation will make their final decision known in the spring.