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Grand Central Railway

Grand Central
Class 180 at London Kings Cross in August 2012
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
Stations operated: 0
Parent company: Arriva UK Trains
Route map
Route map

Grand Central[1] 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.[2] It is a subsidiary of Arriva UK Trains.


  • History 1
  • Routes and services 2
  • Named services 3
  • Performance 4
  • Rolling stock 5
  • Proposed services 6
    • York-Chester 6.1
    • Bradford Interchange-London Euston 6.2
    • Lincoln-London King's Cross 6.3
    • Blackpool North to London Euston 6.4
    • Hartford-London Euston 6.5
  • Depots 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


43080 at London Kings Cross on 18 December 2007, the first day of Grand Central services

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.[3][4][5] The company was dissolved in March 1998.[3]

In April 2000 a new company was formed by Ian Yeowart, also named Grand Central Railway Company Limited, to pursue open-access opportunities.[6]

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.[7] The application was rejected in June 2004.[8][9]

Coach operator Fraser Eagle Group purchased a 79% shareholding in Grand Central in 2004.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13][14]

Fraser Eagle sold their 79% shareholding in Grand Central in March 2007 to two former managers of Prism Rail, backed by a private equity group.[15][16]

Operations were due to commence in May 2007, however delays in procuring and then refurbishing rolling stock delayed this.[17][18][19]

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.[20][21][22] The full timetable was introduced in March 2008.[23][24] 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.[25][26]

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.[27] 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.[28] In August 2009 the fourth daily Sunderland - London King's Cross service commenced.[29]

The Office of Rail Regulation announced in February 2010 that all access rights have now been extended until December 2016.[30]

In May 2010 Grand Central services between Bradford Interchange and London King's Cross commenced.[31][32] It was hoped that the service would start in December 2009, but difficulties in securing rolling stock caused delay.[33]

In November 2011 Grand Central was purchased by Arriva UK Trains.[34][35][36] At the time of the takeover Grand Central had 123 employees, a turnover of £18.9m and debts of £44m.[37]

From December 2011 Bradford services have made an additional stop at Mirfield.[38]

Grand Central has never been profitable and by December 2011 had accrued losses of £40 million.[39]

In December 2013, a fourth daily Bradford to London Kings Cross service commenced, operating Monday through to Sunday.

In August 2014, Grand Central was granted an extension of its operating rights until December 2026.[40][41]

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" [42]

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. This is known as the West Riding or "West Yorkshire" service.[43]

Named services

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 (16:50) train from London was called The 21st Century Limited. No mention of these was made from 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%.[44]

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.[45]

In February 2015 Grand Central gained the highest customer score - 76% - 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.[46]

Rolling stock

Grand Central mark 3 TS (Standard Class) coach interior

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.[11] As the paths were only granted on the basis of 125 mph 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.[47] Difficulty in securing these lead to Grand Central deciding to use High Speed Trains[48]

In October 2006 sister company Sovereign Trains purchased six Class 43 power cars and 24 Mark 3 trailer vehicles from Porterbrook.[49] 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.[50][51] 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.[52] 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.[53][54][55]

In March 2010 the High Speed Trains were sold to Angel Trains who funded an overhaul including repowering the Class 43s at Brush Traction with MTU 16V4000R41 engines.[56]

To operate the fourth Sunderland service two Class 180s were leased from Angel Trains in 2009[57] followed in 2010 by another three to operate the Bradford services.[58][59] Before entering service, 180112 was named James Herriot in July 2009.[60] The remaining two units, 180105 and 180114, entered service later in 2009.[61] Grand Central secured two further Class 180s, 180101 and 180107, bringing the total number to five.[62] 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, although they have worked it before.

In August 2013 Grand Central revealed proposals for moving to an all-Class 180 fleet.[63]

 Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Routes operated   Built 
 mph   km/h 
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

Proposed services

In addition to its Kings Cross to Sunderland and Bradford services, Grand Central also expressed interest in operating other services.


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.[11]

Bradford Interchange-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. This service would have called at Halifax, Brighouse, Huddersfield, Stalybridge, Guide Bridge, Stockport, Crewe, Lichfield Trent Valley, Tamworth and Nuneaton.[64][65] The proposal was dropped due to difficulties with Virgin Trains' Moderation of Competition protection.

Lincoln-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, but was rejected. This service would have called at Newark North Gate and Grantham.[66]

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. Grand Central sought to run these services from May 2012, using Class 67 locomotives hauling nine 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.[67][68] 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.[69]

In April 2015, Grand Central announced proposals to operate six return journeys each day between London and Blackpool using 6 coach Alstom Pendolino trains and intends to seek approval from the Office of Rail Regulation. [70]

Hartford-London Euston

There would have been a daily service between Hartford and Euston calling at Lichfield Trent Valley, Tamworth and Nuneaton, but it was rejected by the Office Rail of Regulation.


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 Arriva TrainCare, Crewe,[71] which is also owned by Arriva UK Trains.[72]


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 3979826 Grand Central Company Limited
  2. ^ About Grand Central. Grand Central.
  3. ^ a b Companies House extract company no 2867426 Grand Central Railway Company Limited (Mark 1)
  4. ^ Grand Central & Marilyn GC Magazine Issue 1 Summer 2008
  5. ^ "Yeowart challenging the old guard". Rail (Peterborough). Issue 632. 2 December 2009.
  6. ^ Companies House extract company no 3979826 Grand Central Railway Company Limited (Mark 2)
  7. ^ Application to the Regulator for a Passenger Track Access Contract Under Section 17 of the Railways Act 1993 Office of Rail Regulation
  8. ^ Application by Grand Central Railways Company Limited for a Track Access Contract Office of Rail Regulation June 2004
  9. ^ "Plans for new rail link hit the buffers".  
  10. ^ Fly like an eagle EN Magazine 2006
  11. ^ a b c Application to the Regulator for a Passenger Track Access Contract Under Section 17 of the Railways Act 1993 Office of Rail Regulation
  12. ^ Office of Rail Regulation decision on applications for the Track Access Rights necessary to operate additional passenger services on the East Coast Main Line Office of Rail Regulation March 2006
  13. ^ Allen, Katie (28 July 2006). "GNER fails to block rival's east coast line service". The Guardian (London). 
  14. ^ "Decisions Decisions". Rail Professional. September 2006.
  15. ^ Harrison, Michael (14 March 2007). "Former Prism bosses buy Grand Central in £10 million deal".  
  16. ^ "On track for a rail profit". Lancashire Telegraph (Blackburn). 19 March 2007.
  17. ^ Smith, Ross (7 October 2006). "London rail service winner has no trains". The Journal (Newcastle upon Tyne). Retrieved 9 June 2010. 
  18. ^ "Second delay for new rail service". BBC News Online. 26 April 2007. Retrieved 27 April 2007. 
  19. ^ "A message from Grand Central's new Managing Director Tom Clift" (Press release). Grand Central. 16 October 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  20. ^ "Grand Central set for March launch". The Railway Centre. 22 February 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2008. 
  21. ^ "Latest news on Grand Central launch" (Press release). Grand Central. 19 November 2007. Retrieved 21 November 2007. 
  22. ^ "Passenger services begin Tuesday 18 December". Grand Central. 18 December 2007. 
  23. ^ "Full Grand Central service to begin on Saturday". Grand Central. 29 February 2008. 
  24. ^ Rail (Peterborough). Issue 585. 13 February 2008. p. 41.
  25. ^ "Train firm forced to cut services". BBC News. 20 May 2008. 
  26. ^ "New delay for troubled rail firm". BBC News. 7 July 2008. 
  27. ^ Track Access Rights on the East Coast Main Line Grand Union 28 March 2008
  28. ^ ORR announces its proposed decision on East Coast Main Line track access applications Office of Rail Regulation 29 January 2009
  29. ^ Clark, Kevin (17 August 2009). "Grand Central starts fourth train to King's Cross". Sunderland Echo. Retrieved 9 June 2010. 
  30. ^ ORR approves East Coast Main Line track access applications Office of Rail Regulation 11 February 2010
  31. ^ "West Riding Timetable May 2010" (PDF). Grand Central. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  32. ^ "An historic journey to London with Grand Central West Riding Service".  
  33. ^ Drury, Colin (19 August 2009). "London rail link blow: Service will be delayed until May". Halifax Evening Courier. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  34. ^ "Arriva acquires open access operator Grand Central Railway" (Press release). Arriva. 4 November 2011. 
  35. ^ Milner, Chris (5 November 2011). "Arriva acquires open access operator Grand Central Railway".  
  36. ^ "Germans buy open-access operator Grand Central".  
  37. ^ Laing, Iain (5 November 2011). "Transport giant Arriva takeover (sic) Grand Central".  
  38. ^ Mirfield gets direct rail services to and from London Grand Central
  39. ^ Grand Central Railway Company Limited Annual Accounts 31 December 2011
  40. ^ Application to the Office of Rail Regulation for a track access agreement Grand Central August 2013
  41. ^ Grand Central Sunderland to London rail service given 10 year extension Sunderland Echo 7 August 2014
  42. ^ [3] Grand Central
  43. ^ [4] Grand Central
  44. ^ "National Rail Trends Portal (ORR)". Office for Rail Regulation. 
  45. ^ "National Passenger Survey - Autumn 2012". Passenger Focus. 29 January 2013. 
  46. ^
  47. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 533 15 February 2006 Page 12
  48. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 546 16 August 2006 Page 14
  49. ^ Grand Central Railway to operate HST power cars and loco-hauled Mk3s 5 October 2006
  50. ^ Sectorisation 125 Group
  51. ^ Privatisation October 2005 - Present 125 Group
  52. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 564 25 April 2007 Page 7
  53. ^ Grand Central Class 47 Haulage, 2008 Sulzer Power
  54. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 591 7 May 2008 Page 16
  55. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 594 18 June 2008 Page 17
  56. ^ Angel Trains in HST Lease-Back Deal with Grand Central Angel Trains 2 March 2010
  57. ^ New Trains for the New Service Grand Central
  58. ^ Grand Central signs up three additional trains for new 'West Riding' service Grand Central
  59. ^ Network Rail Acceptance of proposed vehicle change, 11 June 2008.
  60. ^ "'"Grand Central honours Yorkshire vet 'James Herriot (PDF). Railway Herald (188) (Scunthorpe). August 2009. p. 3. Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  61. ^ Miles, Tony (August 2009). "Third Adelante for Grand Union". Modern Railways (London). p. 92. 
  62. ^ "GC sets out plan for five '180s' by 2010". Rail (624) (Peterborough). 12 August 2009. p. 15. 
  63. ^ "Grand Central Rail Seeks Contract Extension" (Press release). Grand Central. 5 August 2013. 
  64. ^ New rail routes planned The Telegraph 20 September 2006
  65. ^ Off to London from Huddersfield station The Huddersfield Daily Examiner 21 September 2006
  66. ^ "Lincoln to London rail service could be saved by another train operator". Lincolnshire Echo (Lincoln). 25 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010. 
  67. ^ "Application to the Office of Rail Regulation for a passenger track access contract under section 17 of the Railways Act 1993" (PDF). Office of Rail Regulation. 2010. 
  68. ^ Miles, Tony (December 2010). "Blackpool through service proposed in West Coast path frenzy". Modern Railways (London). p. 6. 
  69. ^ "Regulator announces conclusions on future track access rights for the West Coast Main Line" (Press release) (ORR/02/11). Office of Rail Regulation. 2 March 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2012. refused Grand Central's application … failed our not primarily abstractive test 
  70. ^
  71. ^ 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
  72. ^ LNWR Co.Ltd - The Company

External links

Media related to 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


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