GNER fury over regulator snub

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's top rail bosses launched a blistering attack on the industry's regulator yesterday after plans to increase services on the East Coast main line were blocked.

Christopher Garnett, the chief executive of GNER, described the Office of Rail Regulation's decision as "incredible" and a "grave error of judgement", and said the company was reviewing its legal position. Mr Garnett accused the ORR of undermining the Government's rail franchising policy and creating a "recipe for chaos".

GNER, which agreed to pay the Government £1.3bn last year for the right to continue operating the franchise for a further 10 years, had applied to increase its services between London and Leeds. But its application for more services, which formed part of its franchise deal with the Government, was rejected by the ORR in favour of allowing a new operator, Grand Central, to use capacity on the East Coast main line to run new services from Sunderland to London.

"It is staggering that the ORR has blocked the delivery of a key commitment in a government-specified rail franchise," Mr Garnett said. "We are at a loss to understand the basis on which this incredible decision has been made.... The ORR has made a grave error of judgement."

The ORR's decision could have serious implications for the financial viability of the new GNER franchise, which was based on being allowed to increase passenger revenues enough to afford the £1.3bn repayment.