Rail veteran bids to revive GNER services

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The Independent Online

A rail industry veteran today unveiled plans to take on larger rivals with new high speed services under the resurrected GNER name.

Alliance Rail director Ian Yeowart has submitted proposals to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) to run services on the East Coast and West Coast Main Lines against the current franchise holders.

Mr Yeowart, who joined the industry in 1973, wants to run trains under the GNER and GNWR banner under 'open access' arrangements - agreeing with Network Rail to run fully-funded services using existing capacity.

If successful, the move would see the return of the GNER name to UK railways two years after it disappeared.

US firm Sea Containers ran the East Coast franchise under the name, but went bankrupt in 2006 and was stripped of the deal.

Now Alliance Rail has put forward plans for four new services between King's Cross, Sheffield and Huddersfield as well as four trains to Grimsby and Cleethorpes and an 'inter-city' service between Hull and Liverpool under GNER.

Sister company GNWR would run trains between Euston, Huddersfield and Leeds, services to Halifax and Bradford and a train to Carlisle via Barrow and the Cumbrian coast.While the fate of the East Coast franchise remains uncertain - beleaguered National Express is due to hand it back to the Government by the end of the year - GNWR services would be pitted against West Coast franchise holder Virgin.

But Mr Yeowart added: "There are many large and important locations that are poorly served or not served at all.

"Open access is the opportunity for those communities to see their links restored and at the same time provide some much-needed consumer choice."

Mr Yeowart has already founded the Grand Central railway under open access agreements, which runs services between London and Sunderland. He left the business earlier this year but remains a shareholder.

Although Alliance's backers are yet to be revealed, if the ORR gives approval the company plans to spend around £250 million on rolling stock and a further £20 million on stations. The new company would generate revenues of around £50 million a year.

But the eventual launch of GNER and GNWR is still some way off. The regulator could take up to 18 months to make a decision with the new services unlikely to begin before December 2013 if approved.