Grand Central (Train Operating Company) - A

Grand Central (Train Operating Company) - A

Grand Central is an open-access train operating company in the United Kingdom. A subsidiary of Arriva UK Trains, it has operated passenger rail services since December 2007.

The company was founded in April 2000 as 'Grand Central Railway Company'. Following multiple applications for track access rights, it launched its operations on the East Coast Main Line between Sunderland and London King's Cross in December 2007. Services between Bradford Interchange and London King's Cross commenced in May 2010. In November 2011, Grand Central was acquired by Arriva UK Trains.

Grand Central has also put forward various proposals for operating additional services in the future. One such service, from London Euston to Blackpool North via the West Coast Main Line, was scheduled to begin in 2021, but the initiative was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grand Central History

The origins of Grand Central can be traced back to the privatisation of British Rail during the mid-1990s. Several bids were submitted under the Grand Central name by Ian Yeowart and a consortium of ex-British Rail managers to operate Midland Mainline and Regional Railways North East franchises. However, none of the bids it made resulted in a franchise being awarded. In light of this, during March 1998, the company was formally dissolved.

  • In April 2000, a new company. 'Grand Central Railway Company', was founded to pursue open-access opportunities. One year later, it was publicly proposing to obtain second hand Intercity 125 sets with which to run its own services.
  • During June 2003, Grand Central applied to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) to operate a two-hourly open-access service from Newcastle to Bolton via the Caldervale Line and Manchester Victoria using InterCity 125 trains from Virgin CrossCountry.
  • In June 2004, this track-access application was rejected.
  • While establishing its operations, Grand Central reached out to the coach operator Fraser Eagle Group for assistance, during March 2006, Fraser Eagle opted to acquire a 79% shareholding in the venture. In response to the acquisition, Great North Eastern Railway (GNER) threatened to sever business ties with Fraser Eagle Group, with which it had active contracts to provide rail replacement buses.
  • In February 2005, Grand Central applied to the ORR to operate four daily services from Sunderland to London King's Cross and four daily services from Bradford Interchange to London King's Cross using Class 67 locomotives hauling five Mark 3 carriages and a Driving Van Trailer.
  • In March 2006, the ORR granted Grand Central access rights for three daily Sunderland to London King's Cross services. After unsuccessfully attempting to have the process reversed at an ORR hearing, the franchised operator GNER sought a judicial review of the decision to grant Grand Central access rights, but this was rejected by the High Court in July 2006.
  • During March 2007, it was announced that Fraser Eagle had sold its 79% shareholding in Grand Central for £10 million to a pair of former managers of Prism Rail, who were backed by a private equity group.
  • Operations were originally due to start in May 2007, however, delays in the procurement and refurbishment of rolling stock were reportedly encountered.
  • On 18 December 2007, operations commenced between Sunderland and London King's Cross. While awaiting delivery of all of the rolling stock, Grand Central initially operated only one Sunderland – King's Cross and one York – King's Cross service in each direction.
  • During March 2008, the full timetable was introduced. Mechanical problems with the InterCity 125 fleet led to services being regularly cancelled, as well as a reduced service being operated between May and July 2008.
  • During March 2008, Grand Central applied to the ORR to operate three daily services from Bradford Interchange to London King's Cross. In January 2009, it was granted access rights for three daily Bradford Interchange to King's Cross services until December 2014 and a fourth Sunderland to London King's Cross service until May 2012. During August 2009, the fourth daily Sunderland - London service started.
  • In February 2010, the ORR announced that all access rights had been extended until December 2016.
  • On 23 May 2010, Grand Central services between Bradford Interchange and King's Cross began. It was hoped that the service would start in December 2009, but difficulties in securing rolling stock caused delay.
  • In November 2011, Grand Central was bought out by Arriva UK Trains for an undisclosed amount. At the time of the takeover, Grand Central had 123 employees, a turnover of £18.9 million and debts of £44 million.
  • Since December 2011, Bradford services have made an additional stop at Mirfield.
  • During December 2012, a fifth service was operated on the Sunderland to London route, however, on account of pathing difficulties, it initially commenced at Hartlepool.
  • In December 2013, a fourth daily Bradford to London King's Cross service commenced.
  • In August 2014, Grand Central was granted an extension of its operating rights until December 2026.

Grand Central COVID-19 Pandemic

From 3 April 2020, Grand Central temporarily suspended all services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A spokesperson for the company said "Grand Central has decided to suspend services and hibernate the company to protect their financial viability during this time of reduced passenger numbers."

As Grand Central is not a franchised train operating company (TOC), it is not subject to the same government financial package as other franchised services. The company resumed operations on 26 July 2020, initially operating a limited service of five return journeys per day, to increase over subsequent months.

Following the second lockdown announced by the UK government, Grand Central announced on 3 November 2020 that it would once again suspend all services from 6 November. After the second lockdown ended, Grand Central resumed service on 3 December 2020 with a limited timetable and a reservation-only policy on all its services. After the third lockdown's announcement, Grand Central announced on 6 January 2021 that it would once again be suspending all services from 9 January to 1 March 2021.

Grand Central Routes and Services

Grand Central Current Services

Grand Central connects Yorkshire and the North East to London with two routes.

Five daily services on the North East to London route run between Sunderland and London King's Cross calling at Hartlepool, Eaglescliffe, Northallerton, Thirsk and York. This route is known as the North Eastern service. Grand Central has in the past given names to two trains on this route.

Contrary to tradition in British named train services, these were individual one-way trips rather than pairs. In the 2008 timetable, the name The Zephyr was given to the early morning (06:41) departure from Sunderland, while the evening (16:50) train from London was called The 21st Century Limited. As of the 2012 timetable, these names are no longer used by the company.

Four daily services which run on the Yorkshire to London route operate between Bradford Interchange and London King's Cross calling at Low Moor, Halifax, Brighouse, Mirfield, Wakefield Kirkgate, and Doncaster. Some services also call at Pontefract Monkhill. This is known as the West Riding (or West Yorkshire) service.

Grand Central North Eastern

  • London King's Cross to Sunderland   6 tpd

York, Thirsk, Northallerton, Eaglescliffe, Hartlepool

Five trains per day on Sundays

Grand Central West Riding

  • London King's Cross to Bradford Interchange   4 tpd

Doncaster, Pontefract Monkhill, Wakefield Kirkgate, Mirfield, Brighouse, Halifax, Low Moor

Pontefract Monkhill is served by three trains southbound and two trains northbound on weekdays, four trains southbound and one train northbound on Saturdays, and no trains in either direction on Sundays.

Grand Central (Train Operating Company) Overview

Grand Central Franchise(s):
Open-access operator
Not subject to franchising
18 December 2007 – December 2026

Grand Central Main Route(s):
Sunderland - London King's Cross
Bradford Interchange - London King's Cross

Grand Central Fleet Size: 10x Class 180 Adelantes
Grand Central Stations Called At: 15
Grand Central Stations Operated: 0
Grand Central Parent Company: Arriva UK Trains
Grand Central Reporting Mark: GC

Grand Central (E) Services Map

Bradford Interchange

Low Moor

Mirfield                                Sunderland
Wakefield Kirkgate            Hartlepool
Pontefract Monkhill          Northallerton
Doncaster                           York

                                             London King's Cross

Grand Central (W) Services Map

Blackpool North
Kirkham and Wesham
Milton Keynes Central
London Euston


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