On JANUARY 27 the UK’s Office for Rail Regulation announced that it was ’minded’ to approve access rights for Grand Central, an open access passenger company that had previously sought to run services over the East Coast Main Line in 2003, to operate three trains a day between Sunderland and London King’s Cross from 2007. The company had also applied to run to and from Bradford, but this was refused.

ORR also ruled on January 27 against an application from Great North Eastern Railway to add five daily services each way between London and Leeds. Given that GNER’s franchise contract with government includes a commitment to increase London - Leeds services from 53 to 65 per weekday by December 2007, GNER reacted strongly. ORR had originally asked for responses by February 6 but was obliged to extend the deadline ’in view of the complexity of the issues involved’. A final decision is now expected ’in mid-March’.