Government backs Leeds trains bid that rail regulator rejected
THE Government has signalled support for additional Leeds-London train services in a move that puts it at loggerheads with the country's rail regulator.
The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) refused to allow GNER to run 12 extra Leeds-London trains to create a half-hourly service every weekday after warning about limited capacity on the East Coast Main Line, which links the region with the capital and Scotland.
A bid from new company Grand Central Railway to operate a Bradford-London link was also rejected but it got provisional approval for a service between Sunderland and the capital - with three daily direct trains each way calling at Thirsk, Northallerton and York.
But in a highly unusual move, the Department for Transport (DfT) has written to the ORR to express concern over its decision.
Mike Mitchell, DfT director general of rail, said: "We remain to be convinced that there is justification for the promotion of the benefits to Sunderland passengers above those of Leeds when the economic appraisal finds in favour of Leeds, and that this weighs more heavily than the needs of other passengers on the route who may find their trains retimed to accommodate the new services, or performing less well because of them."
He expressed concern about the impact of Grand Central's services on other companies with train franchises. GNER is having to pay the Government £1.3bn in premiums over the per-iod of its 10-year contract.
Mr Mitchell also criticised the ORR for not agreeing to a meeting to clarify issues.
Grand Central said it would competitively grow the market, and Leeds was already well served. The ORR declined to comment.
n There are growing calls for a better deal for the region's transport network in the wake of the Yorkshire Post's Road to Ruin campaign. Send your views on transport or sign our petition on www.yorkshireposttoday.co.uk