Grand Central marks a decade since restoring direct London rail services from Sunderland and Hartlepool
The company which brought back direct rail services between the North-East coast and London has marked a decade in existence by promising "exciting times ahead".
December 17, 2007, saw the long-awaited launch of Grand Central's trains from Sunderland and Hartlepool to London's Kings Cross.
Legal challenges from competitors had delayed the start date with early teething problems then adding to fears that the independent company might not survive.
But its fortunes gradually settled to the extent that it was taken over by transport giant Arriva in 2011 and in the last 10 years it has increased the number of daily services running between the region and the capital from three to five.
A series of anniversary events and promotions have been held this month by Grand Central to thank its loyal customers, staff and supporters.
Managing director Richard McClean said: “I am very proud of our track record and I’d like to thank all our customers, partners and colleagues for their support over the last decade.
“This 10th anniversary is a big deal for us and we’re delighted to be able to share it with our customers and colleagues as they have been critical to the success of our journey so far.
“As we look forward to 2018 and to the next decade of our history, we have ambitious plans and are facing some exciting times ahead.
"Alongside significant investment in our trains, we will be seeking to grow our business, running more trains and calling at more stations.”
The train operating company, which operates two routes linking 15 stations in the North East and Yorkshire with London, covers more than 1.5 million train miles and carries more than 1.4 million passenger journeys every year.
Based in York, it now has more than 150 employees with more than 100 frontline staff.
Accolades include being named Britain’s best value long distance train company for the fifth year in a row in July this year by the National Rail Passenger Survey.
Grand Central was also last year voted the highest-rated train operator in terms of customer satisfaction in the National Rail Passenger Survey.