Arriva acquires open access operator Grand Central Railway
By: Chris Milner
Train and bus operator Arriva plc has confirmed that it has acquired open access operator Grand Central Railway which runs passenger train services between Sunderland and London, and Bradford and London.
The acquisition, for an undisclosed amount, strengthens Arrivia’s portfolio of train operations that includes the CrossCountry, Arriva Trains Wales and Chiltern Railways franchises, as well as concessions to operate the Tyne & Wear Metro and (as a joint venture) London Overground operations.
Grand Central reported a loss of £8.4million to the end of March 2011, and had an overall deficit of £35million after facing challenging trading conditions.
Arriva was bought by Deutsche Bahn in April 2010, and some see the move as strengthening DB’s operations in the UK, giving them a foothold in the East Coast Main Line.
Bob Holland, Arriva UK Trains managing director, said: “We firmly believe open access will play a valuable part of a balanced portfolio for our UK Trains division alongside our three franchises and concessions operated on London Overground and the Tyne and Wear Metro.
“Bringing Grand Central on board means we have a live open access operation up and running, one which is popular with customers and which we believe we can develop to become a key commercial part of our UK rail operations.”
For the time being, it’s business as usual for Grand Central. Managing director Tom Clift said: "Today opens a brand new chapter for Grand Central and for open access operations on Britain’s railways.
“The decision by Arriva, one of Europe’s largest transport undertakings, to acquire Grand Central is a huge vote of confidence in all our staff who have worked so hard over the last four years to deliver the very highest standards of customer service to the growing numbers of passengers using our routes.
“I will continue to lead Grand Central and will report directly into Bob Holland, MD of Arriva’s UK Trains division. Meanwhile Grand Central will remain a self-contained business with its own unique brand and identity. Our headquarters will continue to be based in York.”
Interestingly, Arriva also owns Alliance Rail which acts as a development arm of the business, and is run by Ian Yeowart, formerly m.d. of Grand Central, who has since set up Great North Western Railway Co Ltd (GNWR) and Great North Eastern Railway Co Ltd (GNER), aiming to run open access services to a variety of towns and cities with no direct link to London.
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