York based Grand Central has announced a ‘measured’ return to service following a four-month period of hibernation during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Passengers can book on Grand Central's West Riding and North East routes, from July 26.
Managing Director, Richard McClean, said: “In late March it became obvious to us we couldn’t operate a viable rail service under the Government’s lockdown rules. Social distancing and a ban on non-essential travel meant we had no option but to put our trains to bed and place the majority of our staff on furlough. (See Focus Transport posting here)
“Since that decision we have worked hard to plan every aspect of a safe, sustainable return and we can now see that the lockdown has eased to such a degree for us to begin a measured return to service from late July.”
Mr McClean said the business would resume with two daily return services between Bradford Interchange and Kings Cross and a further three daily return services between Sunderland and Kings Cross. More services will be added as demand increases. Drivers and operational staff will begin their return to work soon and Grand Central is now offering competitively priced tickets with seat reservations for the two routes.
“To be able to once again invite passengers to make seat reservations and buy tickets makes our return very real,” he said. “The values of the Grand Central you enjoyed before the lockdown, such as getting the basics right and caring for our customers and colleagues, are still very much here and we will uphold those values now while ensuring the absolute safety of our passengers and staff.
“We have stayed close to all of the work our fellow train operators have been doing and we’re confident our approach will work for everyone. We’ve engaged in wide-reaching passenger surveys over the past couple of months and we’ve listened to you all on what you expect safe train travel to look like. If you buy your tickets on our website and provide your contact details, we’ll be able to let you know the latest information you’ll need for your journey.
“Grand Central started as just an idea 13 years ago and through the hard work of all our team we’ve become a vital service to communities overlooked by the bigger operators.
"I want to thank those passengers for their loyalty and I invite them to put their faith in Grand Central again as we return to their towns and cities."
Grand Central does not receive Government funding and relies on tickets sales.
Passenger and staff safety measures will include increased cleaning during the journey and overnight at depots, and protective equipment for staff. Customers will be able to change their date of travel without penalty if their plans change, and Grand Central offers a range of competitively priced refundable tickets.
Grand Central was set to launch new direct services on the West Coast Main line this summer has shut down its trains temporarily.
Grand Central, which was to start five new return services a day from Blackpool to London via Preston, has said it is due to the plunge in passenger numbers caused by the Covid-19 crisis.
|Grand Central's Fleet Project Manager Paul Batty and a Grand Central Class 90 locomotive to be used on the Lancashire to London direct services|
The company operates under an "open access" rail model unlike the normal franchises such as Arriva, and does not receive support from the Government.
A video showing Class 90's and Mk 4 Carriages in Grand Central livery can be seen
here. Please don't forget to click 'like' when you've seen the video.