Grand Union Trains has got its wish to operate services as an Open Access Operator between London Paddington and South West Wales
It marks the opportunity for a new entrant to enter the rail market between the regions, taking on the current franchised rail operators which operate in the area (Transport for Wales and Great Western Railway).
The access agreement will commence towards the end of 2024, with Grand Union Trains due to commence sometime in 2025 using new build bi-mode trains which can operate under electric or diesel power, as not all of the route is electrified.
In terms of stopping pattern, services will operate from London Paddington to the stations below, operating up to five time a day:
- Bristol Parkway
- Severn Tunnel Junction
As an ‘open access’ train operator, Grand Union Trains will not be able to obtain paid subsidies from public funds, unlike current operators along the route.
A formal decision was made by the Office of Rail Regulator to open the line to other operators, with potential benefits in terms of lower fares, improved service quality and innovation for all passengers using the route.
Stephanie Tobyn, Director of Strategy, Policy and Reform at ORR said:
Lots of interesting notes
One thing that has also been published is the Grand Union decision letter, which includes the abstraction numbers – or how much Grand Union Trains can take away from current operators:
Interesting numbers – indicating that the Office of Rail Regulator reasonably is happy that the new operator will be bringing new custom to the network.
Rolling stock has not been defined yet – although plenty of renders are going round of a Class 800 Hitachi IET-type train being shown off. Considering what else is used on the line for long-distance services (Class 800 and 802), this isn’t a far stretch to believe -although no announcement has come from Hitachi yet that these trains have been financed or ordered.
It’s a big step forward for competition on the Great Western Lines, one which the Welsh government is welcoming, as well as others.
It’ll be interesting to see how this is taken to fruition and how they intend to market this – if done right (such as Lumo), there could be some very good passenger benefits ahead.
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