SUNDERLAND’S rail link with London has been given a 10-year extension, it has been announced.
The new contract will allow operator Grand Central Rail to continue running services between King’s Cross and Wearside until 2026.
Grand Central trains from London to Bradford, in West Yorkshire, will also now run until the same year.
Grand Central bosses say the new deal, which was struck after a 28-day consultation, which took place last year, will allow the firm to make “significant investment” in its rolling stock and also invest in passenger facilities at the stations it calls at.
Richard McClean, managing director of Grand Central, said: “As an Open Access Operator, the 10-year extension to our rail access is excellent news for our passengers and employees and highly significant for the wider rail industry.
“Not only does this mean we can continue to operate services connecting Sunderland and Bradford to London King’s Cross, but we are also in a position to proceed with significant investments to improve our services and encourage future economic growth.
“For many of the towns on our routes we operate the only direct service to London, so this extension is a big coup for those communities and local businesses as well, who can continue to make connections to the capital.
“Our new access rights give us the opportunity to make significant investment in the rolling stock to improve reliability.
“We’ll also work with stations along our route to improve facilities like car parks.”
Mr McClean added: “We pride ourselves on our customer service, as recently demonstrated in the latest National Rail Passenger Survey results, and we are looking forward to a further 10 years of linking with these communities and making continued enhancements to our service for our passengers.”