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Grand Central: Bid for 550,000 more seats on routes between London Kings Cross and the North

Arriva is looking to significantly expand capacity on routes from London, adding over 550,000 seats.
Arriva is looking to significantly expand capacity on routes from London, adding over 550,000 seats.

Arriva Group has submitted an application to the rail regulator to significantly expand capacity for its services connecting London Kings Cross to the North.

Grand Central, the transport company’s open access subsidiary, is looking for two additional return services between Bradford and London and an additional early morning connection from York, with an evening return.

Its request to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) will add over 550,00 extra seats annually between the UK capital and northern destinations, an uplift of more than 30 per cent of what is available today. Services would launch around May 2025.

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David Brown, managing director of Arriva’s UK Trains division, said: “These proposals would bring more services and choice to passengers, building on the success of Grand Central’s open access operations, which connect a number of under-served communities in both the North East and West Yorkshire to London.

“This is a growth opportunity for the railway and a positive development for passengers and for our colleagues at Grand Central.

“By delivering additional services through open access, we can encourage more train travel, which is good for the environment and for communities, helping to ensure Britain’s rail system can thrive long into the future.”

Open access is a growing model designed to boost competition with traditional train operator’s, in which companies take full commercial risk and are not subject to hefty government franchising fees.

It is being explored by a number of the UK’s biggest transport conglomerates. Firstgroup has put forward plans to restore the London to Rochdale train route through its booming all-electric open access subsidiary Lumo.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains is also bidding for a return to the West Coast Mainline as it looks to give struggling Avanti West Coast a kicking.

If successful, Arriva Group’s propsal would provide 360,000 additional seats per year between London and Bradford, a 50 per cent increase on seass currently offered on Grand Central’s West Yorkshire service.

Between York and London Kings Cross, an early morning departure and late-evening return would boost capacity by 195,000.

It would also bring four new direct calls at Seaham in Durham, providing passengers with a new direct connection to London. This would be the towns’ first and only direct connection to the capital.