Grand Central's Lancashire to London rail service delayed until 2021 as it suspends all rail services due to coronavirus lockdown

The inter city train operator which was set to launch new direct services on the West Coast Main line this summer has shut down its trains temporarily.

By Tim Gavell
Saturday, 4th April 2020, 6:45 am

Grand Central, which was to start five new return services a day from Blackpool to London via Preston, has said it is due to the plunge in passenger numbers caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

The new county services will not start now until 2021. The firm had been training drivers and crew and had established a staff hub in Blackpool's Talbot Gateway Bickerstaffe House offices.

The company operates under an "open access" rail model unlike the normal franchises such as Arriva, and does not receive support from the Government.

Grand Central's Paul Batty and a Grand Central Class 90 locomotive to be used on the Lancashire to London direct services

The rail union TSSA called for the publicly owned rail company LNER to take over existing Grand Central services.

Grand Central managing director, Richard McClean, said: “So far we have offered a rail service, under a reduced timetable, in order to keep key-workers moving at a time of crisis. This comes with all the costs of running a train service, while bringing no ticket revenue to our business.

“This situation is unsustainable and, following several days of discussion with the Department for Transport, we have no alternative but to suspend our services.

“Customers who have a ticket to travel with Grand Central can claim a full refund from the place they bought their ticket. People who absolutely need to travel, in line with government restrictions, can use their Grand Central ticket to travel on other train companies’ services.”

“We have also paused, until early 2021, the preparations for our new Blackpool to London Euston services, and the launch of our planned extra daily trains on Grand Central’s Sunderland to Kings Cross route.”

He said Grand Central had held talks with the three main rail unions to ensure the best possible outcome for staff during the hibernation and that the company would make full use of the Government’s furlough scheme.

“A skeleton team will continue working to ensure Grand Central is ready to resume services as a thriving train operator, serving communities across the country, once restrictions ease,” he added.

“We recognise this will be disappointing news and we know how many people rely on our services and we thank all our customers for their fantastic support and understanding.”

For details of ticket refunds and COVID-19 emergency restrictions, go to www.grandcentralrail.com