Refurbished Grand Central Class 180 (5)

UK: Open access operator Grand Central temporarily suspended all services from the end of April 3, as coronavirus restrictions continue to affect its passenger numbers.

The London King’s Cross to Sunderland and Bradford operator said it anticipated that the ‘necessary but temporary’ measure would last for an initial two months.

As an open access operator rather than a franchisee, Grand Central does not receive government support.

‘So far we have offered a rail service, under a reduced timetable, in order to keep key-workers moving at a time of crisis’, said Grand Central Managing Director Richard McClean. ‘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.’

Grand Central had held talks with the three main rail unions to ensure the best possible outcome for staff during the ‘hibernation’ and the company is to make ‘full use’ of the government’s furlough scheme which is designed to protect jobs during the pandemic.

‘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’, McClean said.

General Secretary of the RMT union Mick Cash said ‘there are nearly 250 hard working rail staff caught in the crossfire of the Grand Central service suspension plan. RMT’s preference was for those workers to be kept operational in an arrangement between the DfT and the company which would have kept trains running.’ 

Arriva-owned Grand Central’s announcement came after FirstGroup’s Hull Trains suspended its own open access services after the last train on March 29.