Statement on rejection of extra services
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Office of Rail Regulation
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Statement on rejection of extra services
type Press release
GNER today said it was very disappointed by the Office of Rail Regulation's (ORR) decision to reject its franchise commitment to run 12 additional services between Leeds and London.
The ORR today confirmed an earlier, provisional decision to refuse GNER permission for the new services, which would have provided nearly two million more seats a year for passengers on the East Coast Main Line (ECML).
The rejection comes despite the ORR's own study concluding that GNER's services had the best economic case versus competing applications for access to the ECML.
The ORR, in rejecting GNER's franchise commitment and approving a new open access operator, has undermined the Government's franchising policy and has pre-judged the review of all services on the East Coast Main Line by Network Rail.
GNER's franchise contract with Government includes a commitment to increase services between Leeds and London from 53 to 65 per weekday by December 2007 or earlier, subject to ORR approval.
The ORR's provisional decision in January said it would have approved GNER's 12 additional services but for concerns about track capacity between Leeds and Doncaster. GNER provided evidence to the ORR that those capacity concerns, which were based on an incomplete and out-of-date report, could be solved with very minor changes to the timetable.
Now, in its final decision, the ORR has moved the goalposts by raising, for the first time, the issue of track capacity between Peterborough and Doncaster.
GNER chief executive Christopher Garnett said: "We are at a loss to understand the basis on which this incredible decision has been made and believe that the ORR has made a grave error of judgment. Many Yorkshire, East Midlands and East of England passengers and stakeholders will be very disappointed by this news.
"The decision has implications for the Government's franchising programme. It creates a recipe for chaos where franchise contracts, awarded in good faith after long and costly competition, then become devalued and undermined by predatory operators who do not have to pay either fixed charges for the privilege of accessing the railway or any premium to Government.
"Grand Central's business case is based on revenue raiding from a premium-paying, publicly specified franchise. Even their own figures showed that most of their £2 million-plus revenue from stopping at York is abstracted; whereas we believe the real figures are much higher.
"Unfortunately the East Coast franchise competition clearly demonstrated that there was no business case for direct Sunderland - London services. The only way Grand Central can make money is by stopping at intermediate stations and taking revenue from franchised operators under an industry revenue allocation system, regardless of the quality of service they offer or how many passengers they attract.
"GNER is currently reviewing the legal position on the different charging regimes between franchised and open access operators. Competition is fine, but it should be on a level playing field. The present system is unfair and needs to be changed.
"It is staggering that the ORR has blocked the delivery of a key commitment in a Government-specified rail franchise."
The need to increase Leeds-London services has been discussed since 1997. It has been Government policy for five years and public money has been spent to make it happen.
The £240m redevelopment of Leeds station and the £12m Allington Chord scheme were justified partly on the basis that they would permit this proposed increase in GNER services between Leeds and London.
The number of passenger journeys between Leeds and London has grown by 40% in both directions since 2000, but the route has fewer trains than comparable routes to major conurbations.
There are 68 trains per day between Greater Manchester and London (Manchester Piccadilly station-London Euston) and 61 per day between the Tyne-Wear region and London (Newcastle Central station-London King's Cross), providing a service every half-hour in each direction for passengers in those regions.
The ORR decision means that the increasingly busy Leeds-London route will be restricted to 53 services per day.
GNER's plans would have benefited passengers in the southern half of the East Coast Main Line because Leeds-London trains call at stations including Wakefield, Doncaster, Newark, Grantham, Peterborough and Stevenage.
The ORR decision also means GNER could be forced to abandon plans to increase Leeds-London services further from 65 to 80 per weekday by electrifying 15 miles of track between Neville Hill, east of Leeds, to Hambleton Junction, between York and Doncaster on the East Coast Main Line (ECML).
The project could have acted as a catalyst for other electrification schemes between Leeds and York and between Leeds and Selby, and would have acted as an important diversionary route for Anglo-Scottish services.
Dozens of organisations across the ECML lobbied the ORR to approve the extra Leeds services. In addition, more than 6,000 passengers petitioned the ORR to change its mind and 50 MPs signed an Early Day Motion calling on the ORR to reverse its provisional decision and grant the extra Leeds-London services.
GNER's franchise contract includes spending at least £125m on better trains and stations and paying a premium of £1.3bn to Government over the ten-year franchise.
Notes to Editors
In May 2005 GNER started a new 10-year franchise to provide train services along the East Coast Main Line, linking London King's Cross with the East of England, East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, North-East England and Scotland.
GNER operates 123 fast and frequent train services every weekday and carries almost 17 million passengers a year. The company has created the most reliable long-distance train fleet in Britain. More than half the revenue earned by GNER is passed to Government for reinvestment in the railways.
For further information, contact GNER Press Office - 01904 523072 or 0131 550 2015. Out-of-hours, please call 08700 00 51 51 and ask for the duty press officer to be paged.
Visit the GNER Press Centre at www.gner.co.uk for an image library and press
GNER, Station Road, YORK, YO1 6HT
Railhub Archive ::: 2006-03-23 GNE-001