12 February 2014
Great North Eastern Railway (GNER) has today submitted its formal application to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) for permission to introduce an hourly new high speed express train service on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) between London King’s Cross, discount Newcastle and Edinburgh from December 2016 which will slash journey times from an average 4 hours 20 minutes to 3 hours 43 minutes between London and Edinburgh, there and to 2 hours 29 minutes between London and Newcastle.
Shorter journey times will be achieved using tilting trains, which can travel at higher speeds on curved track. The new nine-coach trains, with around 500 seats, will be updated versions of the ‘Pendolino’ train that has been successful in reducing long distance journey times on the West Coast Main Line (WCML). Purchase of the new trains will be completely privately funded.
The application follows a significant period of consultation, and the responses to that consultation and the application form can be accessed at www.alliancerail.co.uk/alliance-gner-application
In its [Draft] Network Specification of February 2014 Network Rail has noted that there is a ‘Business demand for shorter journey times between major cities’ and goes on to state that ‘Present passenger figures for the ECML suggest the rail share of the Edinburgh – London market is sub-optimal, with substantial numbers of passengers opting to travel by air. Continued focus will be required on timetable development, minimising the time penalty of station stops and exploiting the improved capability of new rolling stock’.
The ‘Pendolino’ is the only train capable of providing the journey time reductions required to finally challenge air’s dominance of the route, and will bring with it major economic benefits. By reducing journey times, and focusing on the Edinburgh and Newcastle markets, GNER will address this demand and encourage many travellers to and from London to switch from air to rail. The appeal of the train as being greener and easier than flying will be enhanced by the speed, and high quality of the on board service that GNER will deliver.
Discussions are now further advanced with Network Rail about securing the capacity required to introduce the new service. There has been significant investment in additional capacity on the ECML in recent years with a number of infrastructure upgrades nearing completion and more planned between now and 2019.
In reply to a written question from Therese Coffey MP, Rail Minister Stephen Hammond, MP on 23 January 2014 stated: “Open access operators have helped to provide innovative services for passengers and have helped to grow new rail markets – often with excellent passenger satisfaction scores. The additional competitive pressure in the market provided by open access can also improve the experience of passengers of franchised services”. He continued: “our assessment is that for this very different part of the rail market the open access system works well for both customers and the public purse”.
Ian Yeowart, managing director of Alliance Rail Holdings, GNER’s parent company said: “We have been very encouraged by the support we have received from a number of consultees, and by the more progressive view coming from Government. With so many northern communities like Hull, Sunderland, Bradford, Halifax, Teesside and Hartlepool benefiting from open access services, it would be extremely unfortunate if the opportunity to introduce a new open access high speed service by 2016 was not taken – particularly as it would provide Scotland with its first open access rail service and create a significant number of new jobs in Scotland and the North East of England.”
If you would like more information about this subject visit the website at: www.alliancerail.co.uk or to schedule an interview, please call:
Alliance – GNER
Notes to editors:
• GNER is a subsidiary of Alliance Rail Holdings (‘Alliance’), which is part of Arriva UK Trains.
• Alliance develops plans for ‘open access’ train services that operate outside the franchise system and are not specified by the Department for Transport or Transport Scotland.
• Alliance has also made an application to operate services on the West Coast Main Line through its company GNWR. A decision on this application is expected imminently from the ORR.
• Please go to the link http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2014-01-23b.184046.h for the full Parliamentary question and answer with Therese Coffey and Stephen Hammond
• Around 250 full time equivalent jobs will be created by the new service