Grand Central Railway
|Franchise(s):||Open access operator
Not subject to franchising
18 December 2007 – December 2026
|Main route(s):||Sunderland - London King's Cross
Bradford Interchange - London King's Cross
|Fleet size:||3 High Speed Trains
5 Class 180s
|Stations called at:||14|
|Parent company:||Arriva UK Trains|
|North East route diagram|
|West Riding route diagram|
Grand Central is an independent open-access operator in the United Kingdom. It has operated passenger rail services on the East Coast Main Line from Sunderland to London King's Cross since December 2007; and from Bradford Interchange to London King's Cross since May 2010. It is a subsidiary of Arriva UK Trains.
The origins of Grand Central can be traced back to the privatisation of British Rail, when bids were lodged for the Midland Mainline and Regional Railways North East franchises by Ian Yeowart and a consortium of ex-British Rail managers under the Grand Central name. The company was dissolved in March 1998.
In 2003 Grand Central lodged an application with the Office of Rail Regulation to operate a two-hourly open access service from Newcastle via the Caldervale Line and Manchester Victoria to Bolton using ex Virgin CrossCountry High Speed Trains. The application was rejected in June 2004.
In February 2005 Grand Central lodged an application with the Office of Rail Regulation 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 Office of Rail Regulation granted Grand Central access rights for three daily Sunderland to London King's Cross services, but only with 125 mph capable rolling stock, ruling out the Class 67 option. After failing at an Office of Rail Regulation hearing to have the process reversed, GNER sought a judicial review of the decision to grant Grand Central access rights but was rejected by the High Court in July 2006.
Operations commenced on 18 December 2007 between Sunderland and London King's Cross. While awaiting the delivery of all of the rolling stock, initially only one Sunderland - Kings Cross and one York - Kings Cross service operated in each direction. The full timetable was introduced in March 2008. Mechanical problems with the High Speed Trains led to services being regularly cancelled, resulting in a reduced service being operated from May until July 2008.
In March 2008 Grand Central lodged an application with the Office of Rail Regulation to operate three daily services from Bradford Interchange to London King's Cross. In January 2009 Grand Central were granted access rights for three daily Bradford Interchange to London King's Cross services until December 2014 and a fourth Sunderland to London King's Cross service until May 2012. In August 2009 the fourth daily Sunderland - London King's Cross service commenced.
The Office of Rail Regulation announced in February 2010 that all access rights have now been extended until December 2016.
In May 2010 Grand Central services between Bradford Interchange and London King's Cross commenced. It was hoped that the service would start in December 2009, but difficulties in securing rolling stock caused delay.
Grand Central has never been profitable and by December 2011 had accrued losses of £40 million.
In December 2013, a fourth daily Bradford to London Kings Cross service commenced, operating Monday through to Sunday.
Routes and 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" 
Four daily services which run on the Yorkshire to London route operate between Bradford Interchange and London King's Cross calling at Halifax, Brighouse, Mirfield, Wakefield Kirkgate, and Doncaster. Some services also call at Pontefract Monkhill, with five of the eight weekday services stopping at the station, although it is not served on a Sunday. This is known as the West Riding or "West Yorkshire" service.
Grand Central has given names to two trains on its Sunderland route. Contrary to tradition in British named train services, these are not pairs but individual one-way trips. In the 2008 timetable, the name The Zephyr was given to the early morning (06:41) departure from Sunderland, while the teatime (15:50) train from London was called The 21st Century Limited. No mention of these was made in the 2012 timetable.
Unlike fellow open-access operator First Hull Trains, Grand Central did not previously release performance statistics and, because it is not a rail franchise holder, it was not obliged to do so. However, the latest performance statistics published by the ORR (Office for Rail Regulation) do include Grand Central. The Public Performance Measure (PPM) for the second quarter of 2012-13 was 87.1%, up from the previous report (2011–12) of 84.4%.
In its National Passenger Survey for Autumn 2012, Passenger Focus reported an overall passenger satisfaction rating of 96% for Grand Central - the highest score in the survey. Also, Grand Central gained the highest overall score in "The value for money for the price of your ticket" category with 73%. In the "Punctuality/reliability (i.e. the train arriving/departing on time)" category, Grand Central scored 94% - the equal second highest score. All results from the same Passenger Focus Autumn 2012 survey.
In February 2015 Grand Central gained the highest customer score - 96% - in Which? magazine's Best and worst train companies survey, and scoring 4/5 stars in all six specific categories on which train operators were assessed.
Grand Central's application to the Office of Rail Regulation in February 2005 had proposed using Class 67 locomotives hauling five Mark 3 carriages and a Driving Van Trailer. As the paths were only granted on the basis of 125 mph (200 km/h) stock being used, other stock had to be sourced. It was then proposed to use a fleet of Bombardier Transportation five-carriage Class 222s, similar to those already in use with Midland Mainline and Hull Trains. Difficulty in securing these lead to Grand Central deciding to use High Speed Trains
In October 2006 sister company Sovereign Trains purchased six Class 43 power cars and 24 Mark 3 trailer vehicles from Porterbrook. The Class 43s, that all had buffers fitted when they were modified in the late 1980s for use with the Class 91 locomotives during the electrification of the East Coast Main Line, were sent for overhaul at DML, Plymouth. The Mark 3s were overhauled at Marcroft Engineering, Stoke-on-Trent. Eighteen of the Mark 3s were former Virgin West Coast loco-hauled carriages that required rewiring in order to work with the power cars due to different electrical requirements.
Due to delays encountered during the overhauls, Grand Central investigated leasing spare High Speed Trains from Midland Mainline. However nothing came of this and it wasn't until December 2007 that enough stock had been delivered for operations to commence. The full fleet was in service by March 2008.
Problems encountered with the rolling stock with at one stage all six power cars out of traffic, saw Grand Central hire Class 67s from EWS, Class 47s from Riviera Trains and Class 57s from Virgin Trains to haul Riviera Trains Mark 2 carriages on shuttles from Sunderland to York in summer 2008 as well as High Speed Train power cars from Midland Mainline.
To operate the fourth Sunderland service two Class 180s were leased from Angel Trains in 2009 followed in 2010 by another three to operate the Bradford services. Before entering service, 180112 was named James Herriot in July 2009. The remaining two units, 180105 and 180114, entered service later in 2009. Grand Central secured two further Class 180s, 180101 and 180107, bringing the total number to five. The Class 180 fleet operate both Sunderland and Bradford services, but the InterCity 125 trains operate services to Sunderland only because the route to Bradford is not suitable for these trains.
In August 2013 Grand Central revealed proposals for moving to an all-Class 180 fleet.
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Number||Routes operated||Built|
|Class 43 High Speed Train||Diesel Locomotive||125||200||6||Sunderland - London King's Cross||1976–1982|
|Mark 3 Carriage||Passenger Carriage||125||200||16||Sunderland - London King's Cross||1975–1988|
|Class 180 Adelante||diesel multiple unit||125||200||5||Bradford Interchange/Sunderland - London King's Cross||2001|
In addition to its Sunderland and Bradford services, Grand Central also expressed interest in operating other services.
York to Chester
In February 2005, Grand Central lodged an application with the Office of Rail Regulation to operate a three times a day York to Chester via the Caldervale Line service with Class 158s. This service would have called at Leeds, Wakefield Kirkgate, Brighouse, Rochdale, Manchester Victoria and Warrington Bank Quay.
Bradford Interchange to London Euston
In September 2006 Grand Central announced a proposal to run services from Bradford Interchange via Huddersfield and the West Coast Main Line to London Euston. The proposal was dropped due to difficulties with Virgin Trains' Moderation of Competition protection.
Lincoln to London King's Cross
In June 2010 following East Coast deciding not to proceed with plans for a proposed two hourly service between Lincoln and London King's Cross, Grand Central expressed an interest in running services.
Blackpool North to London Euston
In November 2010 Grand Central applied to the Office of Rail Regulation to operate a new service running four times a day in each direction, between Blackpool North and London Euston via the West Coast Main Line calling at Poulton-le-Fylde, Kirkham & Wesham, Preston, Hartford, Tamworth and Nuneaton. There would also would have been one extra service a day between Hartford and Euston calling additionally at Lichfield Trent Valley. Grand Central sought to run these services from May 2012, using Class 67 locomotives hauling Mark 3 carriages and a Driving Van Trailer running at up to 110 miles per hour (177 km/h), until such time as the Blackpool North - Preston line was electrified. In March 2011 the Office of Rail Regulation rejected the application on the basis the service would be primarily abstractive, meaning it would generate most of its revenue by drawing custom away from existing operators rather than bringing new custom to the rail network.
Grand Central's fleet is maintained at Heaton and Crofton depots. Since the Arriva takeover, heavy maintenance on the High Speed Trains has been performed at LNWR, Crewe, which is also owned by Arriva UK Trains.
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-  Grand Central
-  Grand Central
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refused Grand Central's application … failed our not primarily abstractive test
- Approval of the Twenty-sixth supplemental agreement to the track access contract between Network Rail Infrastructure Limited and Grand Central Railway Company Limited Office of Rail Regulation 17 April 2012
- LNWR Co.Ltd - The Company
Media related to Grand Central Railway at Wikimedia Commons
- Official website
- BBC Wear - Grand Central - One Year on
- BBC News Online, Clear track ahead for new train firm?, 3 March 2006