SUNDERLAND’S direct rail link to London has been sold.
Grand Central, which operated the route to the capital, has been snapped up by city transport giant Arriva.
The Doxford International-based firm has bought Grand Central – which runs four services a day between Wearside and King’s Cross, as well as trains between Bradford, Halifax and London – for an undisclosed sum.
“Today opens a brand new chapter for Grand Central and for open access operations on Britain’s railways,” said managing director Tom Clift.
“The decision by Arriva, one of Europe’s largest transport undertakings, to acquire Grand Central is a huge vote of confidence in all our staff who have worked so hard over the last four years to deliver the very highest standards of customer service to the growing numbers of passengers using our routes.
The Echo understands the deal is not expected to have any impact on jobs, with Grand Central continuing to operate as a separate brand.
Grand Central is an open access operator, which does not receive subsidy from, or pay any premium to the Department for Transport.
The company won the go-ahead to start operating in December 2007, with help from an Echo petition that saw hundreds of Wearsiders pledge their support for the new service.
A full timetable was launched in March 2008 and a fourth daily service added in August 2009.
Mr Clift said: “I will continue to lead Grand Central and will report directly into Bob Holland, MD of Arriva’s UK Trains division.
“Meanwhile Grand Central will remain a self-contained business with its own unique brand and identity. Our headquarters will continue to be based in York.”
The acquisition adds to Arriva’s existing portfolio of UK trains services, which includes CrossCountry, Arriva Trains Wales and Chiltern Railways franchises, and concessions to operate the Tyne and Wear Metro and London Overground operations.
Arriva UK Trains managing director Bob Holland said: “We firmly believe open access will play a valuable part of a balanced portfolio for our UK Trains division, alongside our three franchises and concessions operated on London Overground and the Tyne and Wear Metro.
“Bringing Grand Central on board means we have a live open access operation up and running, one which is popular with customers and which we believe we can develop to become a key commercial part of our UK rail operations.”