Sunderland to London rail services looks to secure future

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THE firm behind Sunderland’s rail link to London wants to guarantee its future for another decade.

Grand Central is planning major investments if it gets the green light to extend its permission to run the service until 2026.

The company is an open-access train operator, which means it runs services under a Track Access Contract approved by the national Office of Rail Regulation.

The current arrangement expires in 2016.

A 28-day consultation is now under way and will run until 5pm on Monday, September 2.

Grand Central managing director Richard McClean said the firm had ambitious plans to invest if it was given the reassurance of a contract extension.

“Over the next few years, we plan to make very significant investments in our train fleet and supporting stations and infrastructure,” he said.

“We are applying to extend our current Track Access Contract for 10 years, as we want the opportunity to grow and improve our service for Grand Central’s passengers and communities.”

The proposed investments include significant spending on rolling stock to improve reliability, including the option to move to a uniform fleet of Class 180 trains, and re-instating the disused platform at Hartlepool to allow greater flexibility and capacity.

Grand Central also intends to invest in other areas at other stations, notably car parking and improved passenger facilities.

The company began operating three services a day between Sunderland and London in December 2007.

A fourth daily service was added in 2009 and a fifth earlier this year.

The firm has also moved into new premises in Sunniside.

Network Rail is running the public consultation on Grand Central’s behalf, giving other train operating companies, passenger transport executives and groups such as Passenger Focus the opportunity to comment on the proposals.

The details are available online at http://www.networkrail.co.uk.