ORR approves new ‘open access’ operator, Grand Union, for UK services
The decision opens up the Great Western Main Line to competition for the first time, with potential for lower fares, improved service quality and innovation for all passengers using the route.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has opened up the Great Western Main Line to competition and enabled a significant increase in rail services between London and South Wales.
Operated by new ‘open access’ operator, Grand Union Trains, services will start at the end of 2024 between London, Cardiff and South West Wales, bringing competition to the Great Western route out of London’s Paddington.
Benefits of the Grand Union Trains service
Passengers travelling between London, Bristol Parkway, Severn Tunnel Junction, Newport, Cardiff, Gowerton, Llanelli and Carmarthen will benefit from an extra five daily return services and greater choice of operator.
The decision from the ORR opens up the Great Western Main Line to competition for the first time; bringing with it potential benefits in terms of lower fares, improved service quality and innovation for all passengers using the route.
The application, submitted to the ORR in June 2022, was disputed by Network Rail due to concerns about capacity on the network. But following careful consideration and analysis, the ORR has directed Network Rail to enter into a contract with Grand Union Trains.
New open access support
Grand Union Trains has committed to significant investment in new trains. As an ‘open access’ train operator, however, it will not get paid subsidies from public funds, unlike current operators along the route.
Speaking to Global Railway Review, Ian Yeowart, Managing Director of Grand Union Trains, said: “We’re naturally very pleased with the decision and look forward to delivering these important services. The support of so many people has been welcomed and the next, important workstream is now underway.”
The ORR supports new open access where it delivers competition for the benefit of passengers. In making this decision, the regulator has weighed this up against the impact on government funds and effect on other users of the railway, both passengers and freight customers.
Stephanie Tobyn, Director of Strategy, Policy and Reform at the ORR said: “This decision supports more choice for passengers, new direct journey opportunities, more price competition, and new comfortable trains. The added competition should also make a significant contribution to innovation in terms of the routes served, ticketing practices and service quality improvements, by both Grand Union Trains and through the response of existing operators.”
READ MORE ABOUT GRAND UNION TRAINS
Writing exclusively for Global Railway Review, Ian Yeowart, Managing Director of Grand Union Trains, explains how the new open access operator will aim to provide a new customer-focused standard of train service, which challenges and changes the current passenger experience. Read the article here.