The news that East Coast might be helping themselves to one of the west coast’s new trains for a while doesn’t really fall into our sphere of interest. Suffice it to say that the extra standard class coaches planned for the west coast Pendolino trains will be welcome when they finally arrive in the region. What is interesting is Virgin Trains’ response, handily summarised by Railway Eye blog. The relevant bit is quoted:
We cannot go into too much detail [on their franchise extension proposal] as this is still a matter between us and the DfT, but we can confirm broadly that our plans are to put the first new Class 390 on Scotland – Birmingham services in 2011, of which many are now full and standing (nearly half of all trains on Fridays and Sundays). Then we would extend the trains to London, restoring some direct Milton Keynes – Scotland links, and free-up a Super Voyager to start a new service linking Manchester with Heathrow (Hayes). Another set would also enable hourly London – Glasgow services throughout the day by the end of 2011.
Is there much demand for a direct rail service between Manchester and Heathrow Airport, or is it just some marketing fluff designed to appeal to an Government that is against a third runway at London Heathrow and would like to see a reduction in internal flights instead? Presumably the service would run via the West Coast Main Line as far as Willesden in North London and then cut across to the Great Western Main Line near Old Oak Common, running as far as Hayes and Harlington station. It wouldn’t be able to reach the airport as the Super Voyagers mentioned are diesel trains and so are banned from the tunnels to the airport. Passengers would either have to change onto some unspecified coach link or catch the Heathrow Connect local train service. And with only one trainset on a journey of around two to three hours, the frequency would be pretty unremarkable – maybe two direct trains in each direction per day?
Alternatively, maybe catch the 10 minute train journey to Manchester Airport and fly from there instead?