Fresh bid for rail services

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Fresh plans for direct train services between Blackpool and London have been cautiously welcomed by rail campaigners.

Grand Central, part of the Arriva Group, revealed it plans to introduce six train services a day between Blackpool and London from 2017.

The proposals would see investment in a fleet of new six-coach Alstom Pendolino trains and the creation of 120 new jobs.

Virgin Rail currently runs two services a day between the resort and the capital following a Gazette campaign which saw more than 5,000 people from the Fylde coast back the idea.

Grand Central wants approval from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), with its parent company the Arriva Group one of several bidding for the Northern rail franchise.

Paul Nettleton, chairman of the Blackpool and Fylde Rail Users Association, called the proposals “fantastic,” but questioned where the services would fit in on the already crowded West Coast Main Line.

He added: “The only problem with these plans is that Grand Central need permission from the ORR. You have seen how many problems Virgin Rail had getting one service from Blackpool to London. It would be very nice but I can’t see it happening.

“It is being very optimistic.”

Mr Nettleton added the only way the services could be approved is if HS2 – the planned high-speed railway between London Euston, the Midlands, the North West and Yorkshire – is given the go-ahead, freeing up routes on the West Coast Main Line.

But representatives of Grand Central said the project would boost the recently announced Enterprise Zone for the resort.

Richard McClean, managing director of Grand 
Central said: “Grand Central has a solid reputation for providing great services and achieving market leading customer satisfaction.

“Since we began in 2007 we have consistently scored highly in passenger surveys, with our services much valued by more than one million customers.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to provide our market leading services for people on the West Coast Main Line and to delivering much needed services for Blackpool.”