Grand Central has confirmed that it will not launch its planned Blackpool North to London Euston route after the coronavirus pandemic has made the plans ‘unfeasible’ for the train operating company.
Executives at Grand Central and Arriva, Grand Central’s parent company, said that after months of exploring options, it is now not viable due to the economic uncertainty caused by coronavirus.
Employees who may be affected by the decision have been advised of the potential risk to jobs.
Richard McClean, Managing Director of Grand Central, said: “So much effort has been put into these exciting plans to launch services between London and Blackpool, that it is heartbreaking to have to abandon them at this point but the pandemic and its effect on our expansion plans have just proved too big an obstacle.
“Because Grand Central operates under an Open Access business model, we receive no external financial help and we rely completely on what we generate in ticket sales. Despite months of work to adjust our costs, and monitor travel behaviour for signs of change it became more obvious to us that to invest in what is essentially a start-up enterprise in this climate was simply not feasible and therefore we reluctantly reached the very tough decision to cease the project permanently.
“We will now concentrate on rebuilding our two existing routes, which returned to service earlier this summer, following lockdown.
The WCML services would have linked Blackpool, Kirkham, Preston, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes to London Euston.
The project had already seen Grand Central open offices in Blackpool and take on extra staff, including train drivers.
Additionally, the Class 90s and Mk4s in Grand Central livery had already begun testing on the WCML.
A consultation period has now begun between employees, rail unions and Grand Central.
Mr McClean added: “We have explored every possibility to continue with plans to start the North West route and protect these jobs. The people we took on have shown incredible patience and professionalism during what has been a period of great uncertainty. They have been at the forefront of our motivation to continue with the route and deliver services to new customers.
“The great support we have also received from Blackpool and the other communities along the route has been a massive inspiration for us to find a solution. I want to thank you all so much.”
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