Friday 25 September 2009

The return of GNER

One of the first posts ever made on this blog, back in June last year, was titled 'The race to link South Humber with London'. It examined four proposals to link Grimsby, Cleethorpes, and in one case Scunthorpe as well, to London.

Since then the National Express East Coast proposal to provide a single daily return Cleethorpes to London service by extending a Lincoln to London service to start/finish up in North East Lincolnshire has been confirmed - even though by the time it starts National Express will no longer be running the franchise.

Meanwhile nothing has been heard about the other proposals from Humber Coast and City Railway, First Hull Trains and Grand Union. Either these proposals have been dropped, or put on the 'long term' pile. The Humber Coast and City proposal is no longer listed on it's promoters website (Renaissance Trains).

Just reminding you off that Grand Union proposal - it was for a Cleethorpes to Kings Cross service calling at Grimsby Town, Habrough, Scunthorpe, Thorne South and Doncaster. And the Managaing Director of Grand Union at the time was Ian Yeowart.

Now a new company called Alliance Rail Holidays has revealed plans to bring back the Great North Eastern Railways (GNER) name, last used by Sea Containers when they held the East Coast franchise, for a new Cleethorpes to London service, calling at Grimsby Town, Habrough, Scunthorpe, Thorne South, Doncaster ... and Retford. And guess who is a director of Alliance Rail - Ian Yeowart. The proposed service would operate four times a day.

However Mr Yeowart has done more than propose some off what he proposed while at Grand Union - he has unveiled plans for trains from across the North of England to London using the GNER brand on the East Coast, and the GNWR brand on the West Coast. More details are in this article, and map. Plus there is one service proposed that doesn't go to London ...

One of the GNER routes is planned to be a new Hull to Liverpool service calling at Brough, Howden, Selby, Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Rochdale, Manchester Victoria, Eccles, Newton Le Willows and St Helens Junction. The proposed frequency is unknown.

So are these plans a good idea? The Cleethorpes to London service would provide a higher frequency than the new service via Lincoln. It also serves Habrough, Scunthorpe and Thorne South, offering new London links from these stations. Oddly Barnetby is omitted from the proposals. Meanwhile the Hull to Liverpool service, provides new links from East Yorkshire, not just to Liverpool, but to Bradford and Halifax too.

However before you get too excited, the likely timescale for any service to start is 2013, and the plans have yet to be approved, and paths need to be found. There is a lot of competition proposed with franchised operations, so expect stiff objections from them, and from the Department for Transport should be expected.

And personally I doubt the whole proposed network would start at once - probably just one route initially. Trying to launch 3 GNER routes and 3 GNWR routes at once would probably be taking too much on at once. Mr Yeowart should know how hard it can be to launch one route from his time at Grand Central.

Another consideration as well is finance, especially with new trains proposed for the services. The backers of Alliance Rail are currently unknown. They will need deep pockets though to fund what is being proposed.

What is proposed is great, if it happens.

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