Grand Central plans new Blackpool to London route from 2020 in major boost for the local economy

Grand Central has confirmed that its plans to run trains between Blackpool and London from Spring 2020 are firmly on track.

These InterCity services were approved in June 2018 by the Rail Regulator, the Office of Rail and Road. Originally planned as Great North Western Railway (GNWR) services they are expected to be operated by established open access operator, and sister Arriva company, Grand Central.

Grand Central currently operates direct trains between towns and cities in Yorkshire and the North East of England and London. The company has an industry-leading reputation for customer service and value for money and a track record of supporting local communities on and around its networks.

In a move which is expected to bring significant economic benefits to the North West, including a boost to tourism, Grand Central will operate up to five new direct train services to run every day of the week between Blackpool North and London Euston. Blackpool will gain direct services to London on Sundays as well as later trains to and from the capital Monday to Saturday. Poulton-le-Fylde and Kirkham & Wesham will each have new direct London services throughout the day, seven days a week. All trains will also call at Preston and Nuneaton, with most stopping additionally at Milton Keynes, connecting leisure and businesses travellers to the capital and offering a choice of operator along with low cost fares.

Richard McClean, Managing Director of Grand Central, said: “We are delighted to announce our plans to operate direct train services between London and Blackpool from early next year. We will bring our operational expertise and industry-leading customer service to this new route, offering more choice for existing rail users and new opportunities for people to travel by train. The expansion of our services will bring significant economic benefits, empower communities along the routes and offer fantastic new career opportunities.

“For more than a decade, we have been dedicated to making travel affordable and enjoyable for people in the North East and across Yorkshire. This new chapter opens up these opportunities to the other side of the Pennines and beyond, ensuring rail remains relevant and accessible to as many people as possible.”

The train operator’s expansion plans will create new jobs over the coming months. Grand Central will be recruiting drivers and on-board crew for its Blackpool traincrew hub. Train driver recruitment will begin soon. More information can be found at www.grandcentralrail.com/careers

More information about the new Blackpool services is available on the Grand Central website at www.grandcentralrail.com/blackpool

From Spring 2020, Grand Central plans to expand its services to new parts of Britain, running services on the West Coast Mainline between London Euston and Blackpool North.

With five return services per day (four on Sunday), and calling at a number of popular destinations, we’ll be giving customers more choice and flexibility in how they travel between North West England and London, in addition to our already popular routes to Yorkshire and the North East.

Route map

Blackpool route map
© Grand Central by Arriva

Blackpool will gain direct services to London on Sundays as well as later trains to and from the capital Monday to Saturday. Poulton-le-Fylde and Kirkham & Wesham will each have new direct London services throughout the day, seven days a week. All trains will also call at Preston and Nuneaton, with most stopping additionally at Milton Keynes, connecting leisure and business travellers to the capital and offering a choice of operator along with low cost fares.

Grand Central’s expansion plans will create new jobs over the coming months. Grand Central will be recruiting train drivers and on-board crew for its Blackpool traincrew hub. Train driver recruitment will begin soon. More recruitment information can be found here.

Proposed timetable (subject to change)

North West route timetable
© Grand Central by Arriva

These InterCity services were approved in June 2018 by the Rail Regulator, the Office of Rail and Road. Originally planned as Great North Western Railway (GNWR) services they are expected to be operated by established open access operator, and sister Arriva company, Grand Central.

To find out more about Grand Central, please visit www.grandcentralrail.com, or follow the railway company on Twitter @GC_Rail, Facebook or LinkedIn.

First Trenitalia chooses Hitachi Rail to build new InterCity trains for Avanti West Coast

  • New trains improve customer experience and capacity with more seats
  • First Trenitalia chooses British-based train manufacturer in contract worth more than £350m including maintenance services, with trains financed by Rock Rail West Coast
  • Cleaner, greener modern trains with two-thirds reduction in carbon emissions overall

First Trenitalia, whose new Avanti West Coast rail service starts on Sunday 8 December, has today awarded a contract worth more than £350m to Hitachi Rail to provide and maintain 23 new intercity trains (135 carriages), to be built at its County Durham factory. 

Bringing additional capacity to services along the West Coast Main Line and in North Wales, these new, state of the art intercity trains will start operating in 2022. The trains will be a mix of ten seven-carriage electric trains and 13 five-carriage bi-mode trains, with the ability to switch seamlessly between electric and diesel power. The electric trains will operate between London, the West Midlands and Liverpool while the bi-mode version will serve the London to North Wales route. They will be part of the fleet operated by the new intercity operator, to be known as Avanti West Coast, that begins operation on Sunday 8 December. 

These are fast-accelerating 125mph trains which draw from their Japanese bullet train heritage. As a result of their modern design, passengers will enjoy a quieter journey compared to the diesel-only trains they will replace. The new trains will have better and more reliable free Wi-Fi, at-seat wireless inductive charging for electronic devices, plug sockets and USB slots; a brand-new catering offer and a real-time passenger information system that can advise customers of connecting rail services.

There are 453 seats on a 7-car service and 301 seats on a 5-car service increasing compacity compared to the Class 221 Voyager trains they replace (which have 258 seats). The seven-carriage version of the electric trains will have similar numbers of seats to a nine-carriage Pendolino, owing to the longer 26 metre carriages of the Hitachi trains.

The bi-mode trains will run for most of the journey using electric power only, switching to diesel power for those parts of the network that are not electrified – for example, the North Wales Coast Line to/from Holyhead. 

Due to the high environmental standards of their diesel engines, the new trains are cleaner and more efficient than the trains they are replacing. Particulate matter emissions are reduced by more than 90% and NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions are reduced by more than 60% compared to the engines currently in service. The introduction of these new trains will help to support the UK’s drive for a cleaner, greener environment. Bi-mode technology is an important first step in de-carbonising rail and achieving ‘no net emissions’.

By running on electric rather than diesel power for the vast majority of the route is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by around two-thirds across the franchise. Passengers using locations such as Birmingham New Street and Glasgow Central will benefit from cleaner air within the station due to fewer diesel train services.

The new trains will be built at Hitachi’s factory at Newton Aycliffe in north-east England, supporting thousands of jobs across the country. Hitachi Rail prioritises UK suppliers whenever possible, including with servicing and maintenance operations. This approach has resulted in Hitachi Rail spending more than £1.6 billion with UK suppliers since 2013. To date, wheelsets have come from Manchester; windows from Newcastle, door handles from Leeds, and overhead panels from County Durham, amongst many other parts made in Britain.

FirstGroup is introducing new rolling stock to improve our customers’ journeys across all its train companies – Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, South Western Railway and TransPennine Express. Together with today’s announcement, this represents an investment of £1.8bn in more than 1,000 vehicles. 

Commenting on the new trains contract, Steve Montgomery, Managing Director, First Rail, said: “We look forward to beginning our Avanti West Coast services on Sunday 8 December, and these new trains will help us really improve travel for passengers with more services, more seats, a better journey experience, enhanced catering and added comfort.”

Ernesto Sicilia, Trenitalia UK Managing Director, said: “We are pleased to announce this new fleet which highlights our commitment to innovation and desire to constantly improve our services. We are delighted to provide more efficient and modern trains which are sustainable and environmentally friendly, reducing CO2 emissions by 61%, including new comfortable seats for an improved customer experience.” 

The investment in these new trains is being financed through Rock Rail West Coast, a joint venture between Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments. Rock Rail West Coast will own the trains and lease them to First Trenitalia. As with Rock Rail’s previous new rolling stock deals, debt will be provided by institutional investor organisations (pension funds and insurance companies).

Mark Swindell, Chief Executive Officer, Rock Rail and Director, Rock Rail West Coast, said: “Rock Rail is delighted to be working with First Trenitalia and Hitachi and our institutional investor partners to bring these trains to the region and deliver step changes in the travelling experience for so many rail passengers across the country.

“This new state-of-the-art Hitachi fleet represents Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments’ fourth new rolling stock deal in the UK, and across all deals combined sees investment by the institutional investor sector of just under £2.5 billion in the UK railway. This long term, highly competitive funding enables significantly enhanced value for money to rail passengers and tax payers over the life of the trains, along with significant improvements in passenger, environmental and operational features.”

Andrew Barr, Group CEO, Hitachi Rail, said: “Based on Japanese bullet train technology, our new trains have proven to be the modern intercity train of choice, increasing passenger satisfaction wherever they run. We’re delighted to continue our excellent relationship with FirstGroup and Trenitalia, for whom we’ve delivered hundreds of trains across Italy and the UK. This new order, which will be built at our factory in the North East, is another vote of confidence in the success of our trains, which are both green and reliable.”

The contract announced today also includes an agreement for aspects of the 23 new trains to be maintained by Hitachi Rail. First Trenitalia have also signed a Maintenance Agreement with Alstom enabling the fleet to be maintained by a joint team from Hitachi and Alstom at the existing Oxley depot in Wolverhampton, supporting highly-skilled engineering jobs.

December 2020 timetable consultation is now open

  • Major changes planned for East Midlands Railway (EMR) services from December 2020
  • Includes thousands of extra seats and quicker journeys to and from London St Pancras International
  • Consultation runs for 12 weeks and closes 14th February 2020

The public consultation into EMR’s December 2020 timetable is now open to passengers, businesses, stakeholders and local communities across the East Midlands route.

December 2020 will see a significant change to EMR services, particularly those travelling to and from London St Pancras International. It includes the segregation of services between EMR Intercity and the introduction of a new service, EMR Electrics, which will run between Corby and London St Pancras International.

Combined, these changes will provide:

  • Up to 30 minutes’ quicker journey times for some EMR Intercity services
  • Up to 13,000 additional standard class seats to and from London St Pancras every week day
  • Earlier morning and later evening services
  • Simpler and more consistent timetable with a more even spread of departure times
  • Improved services for London Luton and East Midlands Airports

There are also proposals for improvements to EMR Regional services, including:

  • Extending Crewe to Derby services through to Newark Castle, providing additional service between Derby and Nottingham
  • Later evening services between Leicester and Nottingham
  • Services from Grimsby will extend to Leicester every two hours, providing the first direct service to Nottingham and Leicester for over a decade

There are further timetable improvements proposed which are a step towards a more substantial improvement for EMR Regional services in December 2021. A further consultation for these changes will take place towards the end of 2020.

The consultation runs for 12 weeks and will close at midnight on 14th February 2020. The consultation document and survey for responses are available online at www.eastmidlandsrailway.co.uk/december2020

The consultation document is split by line of route and includes a separate page for each station on the Midland Main Line. This is intended to help passengers and communities easily understand what the proposals will mean for them and their journeys.

Julian Edwards, Managing Director, East Midlands Railway, said: “Our proposals for the December 2020 timetable would deliver a step change in capacity, improve journey times and introduce a simpler and more consistent timetable.

“Although some of the changes, such as the introduction of electric services between London and Corby, are a requirement of our franchise there is still the opportunity to fine tune and improve our plans.

“We know how important a reliable and punctual railway is for the towns and cities we serve. December 2020 is a vitally important part of our promise to deliver more seats, more services and better journeys for our customers and we look forward to your feedback.”

To read the proposals and respond to the consultation, please visit www.eastmidlandsrailway.co.uk/december2020

East Midlands Railway introduces ground breaking support for local communities

  • Two brand new funding pots available for Community Rail Partnerships and Station Adopters
  • Over £100,000 available until April
  • Part of EMR’s commitment to empower local communities with over £2.5million available over next eight years
  • Funds designed to improve local stations and enhance community opportunities

East Midlands Railway is encouraging Community Rail Partnerships and Station Adoption Groups to apply for a share of significant new funding to bring their ideas to life and transform their local stations and enhance their local communities.  

It is part of EMR’s commitment to invest more than £600 million to improve all parts of the network for passengers, communities and to support a thriving East Midlands.

The funding is split into two schemes; ‘Community Development Fund’ and ‘Station Improvement Fund’ and will be available every year.

The Community Development Fund is used to support initiatives that have significant impact in the wider communities EMR serves, including programmes to work with local schools and other community groups.

The Station Improvement Fund supports ideas to significantly improve local stations, to ensure they are welcoming and integral parts of their local communities.

Donna Adams, Community Engagement Manager, EMR said: “Both of these funding streams are vital in making a difference to the communities that we serve and understanding what their needs are.

“We are looking forward to receiving applications from our Community Rail Partnerships and Station Adoption Groups and bringing their projects and ideas to life”.

Jools Townsend, ACoRP Chief Exec said: “We are delighted that East Midlands Railway is supporting community rail partnerships and groups with the introduction of these two funding schemes.

“This will empower groups to bring their stations and railways closer to the community, helping local people get the most from their railway, and promoting sustainable travel opportunities”.

To find out more about how to apply for funding, please contact stationadoption@eastmidlandsrailway.co.uk

Emotional tribute to railway hero – SWR worker pays respect to his great-grandfather, 100 years after first memorial service

Matthew Phillips, South Western Railway team member based at Putney station, has a special connection to the railway. His great-grandfather worked on the very same route (then called the London and South Western Railway) over a century ago as a parcel porter in Southampton.

Tragically, after signing up to fight on the Western front during World War One, Arthur Wilkins was killed in action at the age of just 21, on 15 April 1918.

His great-grandson Matthew was invited to represent SWR at the Centenary Memorial Service, at Southwark Cathedral on Wednesday, commemorating those who lost their lives during both world wars. He will also lay a wreath at the Victory Arch memorial on Armistice Day, along with SWR’s Managing Director, in honour of fallen railwaymen.

Arthur is commemorated (as AJJ Wilkins) on the Great War memorial by the Victory Gate stairs, at Waterloo station. He worked for LSWR as a parcel porter at Southampton Central and in 1916 at the age of 19 volunteered to join the Hampshire Regiment. Having been injured at Paaschendaele, he returned home to convalesce before re-joining the war again in France with the 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry (fighting alongside the author C.S. Lewis).

Arthur’s regiment played an important part of a wider effort in repelling the final great assault by the German army across France and Belgium at La Bassee Canal.

Arthur was killed on 15 April 1918 at the age of 21, leaving his wife and daughter (Matthew’s grandmother). 

Andy Mellors, Managing Director for South Western Railway, said 

“It was a honour to attend the event at Southwark Cathedral, 100 years after the first service of commemoration. It will be a very special moment to lay a wreath at the Victory Arch on Armistice Day, with Arthur’s great-grandson Matthew.”

Matthew Phillips said of his great-grandfather:

“It was an honour to be able to remember my great-grandfather, a proud railwayman for our company and his colleagues who gave up their today for our tomorrow. My family have always been incredibly proud of him. Despite not wanting to go, he signed up and embarked for the war twice – the second time knowing the horrors of the war.

“Thanks to the information passed on by my grandmother and the research my father and I have done for many years, we visited his plaque in Ploegsteert, Belgium 18 months ago. He is a hero to our family.”

Arthur was one of over 186,475 railway workers from the UK and Ireland who volunteered and served in World War One. It is claimed that 18,957 of them lost their lives.

Cascaded HST’s to enter service with EMR in early 2020

  • EMR, LNER and Department for Transport have reached an agreement for High-Speed Trains to be cascaded to EMR
  • LNER sets were significantly refurbished in 2016 and offer improved passenger facilities
  • First will arrive with  EMR shortly and due to enter service in early 2020

East Midlands Railway can confirm it will start to temporarily operate a cascaded fleet of High Speed Trains (HST’s) in early 2020.

The fleet will be cascaded from London North Eastern Railway (LNER) following an agreement between EMR, LNER and the Department for Transport.

By the end of 2020, all EMR Intercity services will be delivered by Class 222 and Class 180 trains. These trains meet the PRM-TSI compliance and are significantly more modern than the HST’s which will be removed from the East Midlands franchise.

Working the driver route learner/refresher for the Derby closure, East Midlands Trains Class 222 No. 222102 at Laceyfileds Footbridge, approaching Langley Mill, 5Z02 Derby to Derby. 9th April 2018.

By December 2022, an overall investment of more than £400 million will replace or refurbish all trains on the network, including the introduction of the brand new bi-mode units on EMR Intercity routes.

The current LNER fleet of HST’s was significantly refurbished as recently as 2016 which included new seat covers, tables, carpets and improved toilets.

The cascaded fleet also offers better accessibility and facilities for passengers, including:

  • Passenger toilets with improved accessibility
  • Call for aid facilities
  • Larger wheelchair spaces
  • Priority seating – including moveable armrests
  • At seat power sockets in first and standard class

Further improvement work will also be carried out before entry into service with EMR, including the installation of a new on-board Passenger Information System.

This is a temporary measure, designed to provide the best possible passenger experience, while EMR works to introduce a more modern and improved train fleet, better suited to the needs of the network.

In addition to the cascaded trains, EMR will continue to offer a high-quality passenger assistance programme, ensuring all passengers can travel with ease and will receive the support they require.

East Midlands Trains HST, powered by 43044 & 43089, passing Shipley Gate working 1B23 Leeds to St Pancras International. 16th February 2019.

Chris Wright, Fleet Director, East Midlands Railway, said: 
“By December 2022, we will have replaced our entire train fleet to provide modern and accessible trains better suited to the routes they operate. That work is already well underway but it does not happen overnight.

“The agreement to temporarily use the cascaded HST’s means we can provide a much better service for all passengers travelling on our EMR Intercity services in the short term, while we invest to provide a better service going forward.”