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ORR announces its proposed decision on East Coast Main Line track access applications

29 January 2009
ORR/03/09

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) today announces its proposed decision on applications for track access rights for passenger services on the East Coast Main Line (ECML).

ORR has considered a number of applications for track access rights on the ECML – either to extend the period for which existing rights are in place, or for rights to run additional services. The regulator is minded to approve the following:

  • conversion of the twelve (six each way) National Express East Coast contingent rights between Leeds and London King’s Cross to firm rights until December 2011;
  • continuation of the current access rights, but all as firm rights, for seven weekday and five weekend Hull Trains services each way between Hull and London King’s Cross until December 2014;
  • firm rights for a fourth Grand Central service each way between Sunderland and London King’s Cross until May 2012; and
  • firm rights for three new daily Grand Northern services each way between Bradford Interchange and London King’s Cross until December 2014.

Additionally, ORR received applications from Platinum Trains which requested rights to introduce a new service between Aberdeen and London King’s Cross; and Hull Trains asked ORR to consider the introduction of a new service between Harrogate and King’s Cross. These applications were assessed against published criteria that flow from its statutory duties. On the basis of present evidence ORR is proposing to reject both applications.

ORR has stated support for another application, by National Express East Coast, to operate an enhanced service on the route, including services from London to Lincoln and Harrogate. However, this cannot be formally approved without changes to some other franchised services – and the operator will need to raise this issue with the Department for Transport.

Michael Lee, ORR’s director of access, planning and performance, said: “We received a number of strong cases to operate additional services on the East Coast Main Line, and considered them all carefully. Some of the open access applications do not demonstrate sufficient benefits to offset the impact on existing operators, but we are minded to approve a further increase in open access activity on the route providing more choice for passengers and greater competition.

“We are also hopeful that ways can be found to step up National Express East Coast franchised services with a regular timetable pattern, although some detailed work remains to be done on this. This would make maximum use of the current capacity on the route, until projects for which Network Rail has just been funded deliver further increases in around five years’ time.”

ORR is aiming to announce its final decision before the end of February 2009, and is seeking representations from the industry on today’s proposed decision by 13 February.

Notes to Editors

  1. ORR’s proposed decision and associated documents can be found on our website: http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/nav.1993
  2. The three daily Grand Northern Bradford services will have a calling pattern of London, Doncaster, Pontefract, Wakefield Kirkgate, Brighouse, Halifax and Bradford Interchange and will run until 2014;
  3. The fourth Grand Central Sunderland weekday and Saturday service runs until May 2012 (when its current track access contract expires) with a calling pattern of London, York, Thirsk, Northallerton, Eaglescliffe, Hartlepool and Sunderland.
  4. ORR has said that it is minded to approve the continuation of the current access rights, but all as firm rights rather than a mix of firm and contingent, for seven weekday and five weekend Hull Trains services until December 2014 with a calling pattern of London, Stevenage, Grantham, Retford, Doncaster, Selby, Howden, Brough and Hull.
  5. ORR has said that it is minded to approve the conversion of 6 National Express East Coast contingent rights for Leeds half hourly services to firm rights until December 2011 (when its current track access contract expires).
  6. National Express East Coast’s franchise agreement contains a priced option for an enhanced service, known as SLC2, with an additional hourly off-peak service alternating between Lincoln and York commencing December 2010. National Express East Coast’s track access application is for a variation of this, known as SLC2b, with the York service replaced by a Harrogate via Leeds service, and one of the existing two services per hour to Leeds extended through to Bradford Forster Square.
  7. The criteria and procedures for approving passenger track access contracts in place at the time we received the applications are available on our website at www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/288-pass_candp4ed.pdf. and www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/387_cm.pdf.

Press enquiries

ORR Press Office – 020 7282 2188/2007

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