ALL Grand Central services are being axed tonight for at least the next two months.
The official announcement from the open access operator confirms a Railnews report published earlier today.
GC, which is owned by Arriva, described the measures as ‘necessary but temporary’. The news follows a similar decision from the other East Coast Main Line open access operator Hull Trains, which withdrew all its services on 30 March.
Two days ago, Grand Central managing director Richard McClean had said that ‘we remain committed to providing services for the revised timetable agreed with fellow train operators. The decision by Hull Trains to temporarily cease running services demonstrates the tough conditions for open access operators during COVID-19 restrictions.’
However, there has evidently been a change of heart over the past 48 hours. This afternoon (3 April) he said: ‘So far we have offered a rail service, under a reduced timetable, in order to keep key-workers moving at a time of crisis. This comes with all the costs of running a train service, while bringing no ticket revenue to our business.
‘This situation is unsustainable and, following several days of discussion with the Department for Transport, we have no alternative but to suspend our services.
‘Customers who have a ticket to travel with Grand Central can claim a full refund from the place they bought their ticket. People who absolutely need to travel, in line with government restrictions, can use their Grand Central ticket to travel on other train companies’ services.
‘We have also paused until early 2021 the preparations for our new Blackpool to London Euston services, and the launch of our planned extra daily trains on Grand Central’s Sunderland to Kings Cross route.’
Mr McClean added that Grand Central had held talks with the three main rail unions to ensure ‘the best possible outcome for staff during the hibernation’ and that the company would make full use of the Government’s furlough scheme.
He continued: ‘A skeleton team will continue working to ensure Grand Central is ready to resume services as a thriving train operator, serving communities across the country, once restrictions ease.
‘We recognise this will be disappointing news and we know how many people rely on our services and we thank all our customers for their fantastic support and understanding.’
He has also praised Grand Central staff, who he said had proved ‘professional, understanding and supportive throughout this situation’.
He concluded: ‘I emphasise that while these measures are necessary now, we are planning for them to be temporary. Grand Central enters this new chapter from a strong position. My team and I will do everything we can to get Grand Central back on track once restrictions are lifted. Until then, please stay safe.’