New Preston to London direct train services on track for next year

A Grand Central train
A Grand Central train

Preston is set to get five new direct train services to London when a new name hits the West Coast Main Line next year.

Grand Central has confirmed that its plans for the new services to rival Virgin are on track and the company is recruiting for staff.

These InterCity services were approved in June, 2018, by the Office of Rail and Road. Originally planned as Great North Western Railway (GNWR) services they are expected to be operated by established open access operator, and sister company, Grand Central.

Both are part of the Arriva company, which also owns Northern.

Grand Central currently operates direct trains between Yorkshire and the North East of England and London.

Now it will operate up to five new direct train services to run every day of the week between Blackpool North and London Euston on the West Coast Main Line.

They will start at Blackpool North station, stopping at Poulton, Kirkham and Preston before going on to Nuneaton. Most will also stop at Milton Keynes before heading on to the capital.

The trains will leave Preston Monday to Friday at 7.29am, 8.40am, 12.21pm, 4.22pm and 5.43pm. They will depart London heading north at 7.36am, 11.33am, 12.33pm, 3.33pm and 7.33pm.

On Saturdays they will leave Preston at 8.01am, 9.54am, 12.53pm, 3.43pm and 7.28pm. On Sundays they leave Preston at 9.46am, 1.22pm, 4.49pm and 6.23pm.

From London on Saturdays they will depart at 7.36am, 11.33am, 12.33pm, 3.33pm and 7.33pm. On Sundays they run at 11.41am, 1.29pm, 5.29pm and 8.28pm.

Richard McClean, managing director of Grand Central, said: “We are delighted to announce our plans to operate direct train services between London and Blackpool from early next year.

"We will bring our operational expertise and industry-leading customer service to this new route, offering more choice for existing rail users and new opportunities for people to travel by train. The expansion of our services will bring significant economic benefits, empower communities along the routes and offer fantastic new career opportunities."

The train operator’s expansion plans will create new jobs over the coming months. Grand Central will be recruiting drivers and on-board crew for its Blackpool train crew hub.

Rights to operate these new ‘open access’ services were sought originally by Alliance Rail Holdings on behalf of Great North Western Railway, both Arriva firms, back in 2015.

Instead of operating as a franchise, open access firms buy slots on the main line.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “This is something I have fought hard for; I was bitterly disappointed when Virgin’s service to London did not include a stop at Kirkham and Wesham station.

“It is an issue I raised with the Office for Rail Regulation – it was pointless to have invested millions of pounds in improvements to the station, with the creation of a third platform and installation of two lifts, if services were not stopping there.

“I’m delighted Grand Central has righted this wrong. It is marvellous news and will be a considerable boost for rural Fylde.

“Now we need to get the car parking sorted at the station. I will not rest until we get the car parking we need at the station and I am pleased to see Fylde Council’s planning committee last week initially approving some funding to move the car park situation on.”