Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Well, it is the Vegas of the North

Posted in Customer service, Great Britain, High Speed by Chairman Pip on 19 November 2010

The promotion of the town’s football club to the giddy heights of the Premier League, not to mention the presence of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, seems to have put Blackpool back on the map. So much so that several different people are all fighting over themselves to start running trains there from London once again. First of all, there is Alliance Rail and the extension of its GNWR proposal from Preston to Blackpool. Then, you have Virgin stating that a return to Blackpool is its “top priority” (ironic given it was Virgin who pulled the direct service in the first place). Finally, Grand Central have thrown their hat into the ring. Of course, given the boost that having a direct link to the capital provides (and the success of Grand Central to Sunderland is a case in point), it is good that people are focusing on Blackpool, as if ever there was a place that could do with an economic boost, it’s there. But I can’t help wondering whether this is genuine commercial altruism (i.e. identifying a gap in the market and then trying to fill it), or if this scramble is merely a game of one-upmanship. We all know that Virgin has previous when it comes to bullying potential competitors that run over any part of “its” route, or have the temerity to run to destinations it runs to. There was the spat it had with Chiltern over pricing, and its attempts to drive Wrexham & Shropshire to the wall by “deciding” it was a good idea to start running trains to Wrexham. But, I think it is also fair to question Grand Central’s motives, given that (as far as I remember anyway) it has never shown interest before in Blackpool as a market. Could it be that, given that Alliance’s Chief Executive is Ian Yeowart, the former Managing Director of Grand Central, who Grand Central sacked in 2008, and who then took them to an employment tribunal, Grand Central are trying to usurp Alliance in its aim, and has chosen Blackpool as the likeliest opportunity to do so? Given the fact that Grand Central have put their bid into the ORR to start in 2012, using push-pull stock (planned as a Class 67 and Mark 3s), while both Virgin and GNWR plan to wait until the route has been electrified and use their available high speed trains (Pendolino and Polaris) , may well be some degree of proof that Grand Central are simply after sticking it to Ian Yeowart.

“Blackpool to London link by 2014”
“Third bid for London rail link”
“Blackpool to London service application by Grand Central”


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