The Office of Rail and Road has at last made their decision on the allocation of paths on the East Coast Main Line. The good news for Harrogate is they have found in favour of Virgin Trains East Coast bid to run additional direct trains between Harrogate and London from May 2019. This is the key paragraph:-
“71. In line with our duties, and particularly those to promote railway service performance, protect user interests and promote use of the network, we approved the VTEC extensions to Bradford, Lincoln and Harrogate on the basis of the clear evidence of net benefits from better serving these communities. We will direct Network Rail to agree firm rights for these service extensions from May 2019, as requested by VTEC”
The official announcement on 12th May was that the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has approved applications from Virgin Trains East Coast and First Group for new train services travelling on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) between London and Edinburgh. The new services will benefit passengers travelling to Middlesbrough, York, Newcastle, Morpeth, Lincoln, Leeds, Bradford, Harrogate and Stevenage. These services will be introduced in stages over the coming years, in some cases once Network Rail completes a programme of work to increase track capacity.
In 2014 and 2015 ORR received applications from three train operators seeking to introduce new train services on the ECML. They carried out extensive consultation and analysis of the competing applications, looking at the benefits they would bring to passengers, the effect on public funds, the benefits of competition, and whether they would make best use of the capacity on the route.
The result was that they approved the applications from Virgin Trains East Coast and from First Group, but did NOT approve applications from the Great North Eastern Railway Company Limited (GNER).
John Larkinson, ORR’s Director of Railway Markets and Economics said:
"These new train services will give passengers more choice on services to Edinburgh and London and provide more frequent trains to towns and cities which are not so well served by rail today.
"Our decision has been informed by extensive analysis, formal industry hearings and detailed engagement with all parties. We have carefully weighed up the potential passenger benefits and the financial impacts on existing operators and the government, as we are required to do by law."