Grand Central’s says parent company Arriva, a subsidiary of German Rail (DB), explored “all options” to launch the expansion of service over “many months” but concluded that it is not now viable.
The operator says employees potentially affected by the decision have been advised of the risk to jobs. Suppliers and stakeholders have also been briefed.
Grand Central proposed operating five return services per day between Blackpool North and London Euston between Monday and Saturday, with four services on Sundays. These services were initially due to commence at the spring timetable change but were delayed due to Covid-19.
“So much effort has been put into these exciting plans to launch services between London and Blackpool, that it is heart-breaking to have to abandon them at this point but the pandemic and its effect on our expansion plans have just proved too big an obstacle,” says Mr Richard McClean, Grand Central managing director.
“Because Grand Central operates under an Open Access business model, we receive no external financial help and we rely completely on what we generate in ticket sales. Despite months of work to adjust our costs, and monitor travel behaviour for signs of change, it became more obvious to us that to invest in what is essentially a start-up enterprise in this climate was simply not feasible and therefore we reluctantly reached the very tough decision to cease the project permanently.
“We will now concentrate on rebuilding our two existing routes, which returned to service earlier this summer, following lockdown.”
Grand Central suspended all train services on its existing London Kings Cross - Bradford Interchange and Kings Cross - Sunderland routes on April 3, resuming partial operation on July 2.
The company is currently operating two return services Monday - Sunday between London and Bradford, with a third set to be added on September 13 and fourth on September 20. Four return services are now available Monday - Saturday on the London - Sunderland route, with a fifth set to be added on September 20. Three London - Sunderland return services are currently available on Sundays, increasing to four on September 20.
Before the national lockdown, the company was operating 18 daily services between the north and London Monday - Saturday and 16 on Sundays, serving nearly 30,000 passengers per week.
Grand Central was set to lease four six-car Mk 4 coaches from Eversholt Rail and five class 90 locomotives from DB Cargo to operate the service.