A new open-access train operator wants to run services between West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and London Euston, with a planned start date of December 2013 if permission is granted from the Office of Rail Regulation. Alliance Rail wants to run hourly services to the capital from Greater Manchester, with alternate services calling at either Rochdale/Manchester Victoria/Eccles/Newton-le-Willows en-route to Bradford via Halifax, or Guide Bridge/Stockport/Alderley Edge when heading to Leeds via Huddersfield.
The services would be operated by a new fleet of 140mph capable “dual-fuel” trains, capable of either taking electricity from overhead wires or running on diesel engines on unelectrified routes. We understand the trains would be built by a Chinese manufacturer, and although capable of higher speeds would no doubt be limited to a maximum of 125mph on the UK rail network in similar fashion to East Coast and Virgin trains. Financial backing comes from Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) who acquired this status through their recent purchase of UK transport PLC Arriva. Whilst initial impressions of the bid may be to file under fantasy, it should be pointed out that managing director Ian Yeowart has experience of introducing new services to the rail network from his previous position at Grand Central, running services between Sunderland and London Kings Cross – so we await further developments.
For those who can recall the early days of rail privatisation, you may recall similar London services were introduced from Blackpool, Rochdale and Manchester Airport by the regional rail operator at the time North Western Trains. Whilst the airport trains were four-car electric units, the services from Blackpool and Rochdale were each operated by separate two-car diesel trains which then joined together at Warrington Bank Quay, with the Rochdale portion also calling at Manchester Victoria. The services lasted a few years until the upgrade of the West Coast Main Line saw the service withdrawn due to the paths being given to Virgin in order to run their enhanced timetable.
Meanwhile, plans by Virgin to operate direct trains to Heathrow look to have come to an end, as the Department for Transport rejected Virgin’s bid to extend the West Coast rail franchise for a further two years.
(With thanks to Rob for the tip-off.)