Posted 17th May 2024 | 3 Comments

FirstGroup plans open access from Rochdale

FirstGroup has unveiled plans to provide open access services between Rochdale and London.

First already runs open access services from Hull and Edinburgh, and says the trains for the new service will be built in Britain.

An application has been submitted to the Office of Rail and Road to provide six daily return journeys between Rochdale and London, calling at Manchester Victoria ,Eccles, Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Bank Quay. Some of the intermediate stations would also be convenient for other places, such as Eccles for other parts of Salford, and Newton-le-Willows for St Helens.

A consultation period will now follow, as well as discussions with Network Rail. If the application is successful, the service could start in 2027.

FirstGroup chief executive officer Graham Sutherland said: ‘We have extensive experience of running open access rail operations and we want to bring our successful Lumo service to this new route that connects Rochdale and London.

‘We have seen the level of growth and opportunity that is possible with open access, as well as the positive effect it has on the wider market, including economic and environmental benefits. In addition, the new service will help to drive modal shift from road to rail between the North West and London. We will be working closely with stakeholders as we build our application and our case for this new service.’

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Don Hartwell, Milton Keynes

    Soon after privatisation First Northwestern introduced a limited number of
    return journeys between Rochdale and London Euston using Class 158's.
    These trains called Man.Vic; Newton-Le-Willows, Tamworth and Watford Junction. The service ran between May 1998 and May 2000.

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    So another aspiring Open Access operation to add to those already bidding for WCML paths. As the ultimate arbiter under the current structure ORR now faces the dilemma of judging if capacity is available especially as WCML is already compromised with existing HS2 works specifically at Euston where platform capacity has already been reduced in anticipation of the stalled rebuilding project.

    Prior to covid WCML performance of the franchised operators had already suffered from the over ambitious aspirations of LNW. An operational recast has since enabled a more robust timetable to be introduced but it also has to be borne in mind that Avanti, which has it's own well documented performance issues, has still not restored it's full pre covid offer never mind introducing the additional Liverpool services promised when it was awarded the WCML inter city contract. Does this still remain an aspiration & will the missing services, especially to Chester & North Wales be restored? In fact as the major shareholder in Avanti is it in First's interests to fully restore the pre covid timetable if it is to offer a competitive offer through it's Lumo brand?

    The great unknown remains sorting out the future capacity constraints brought about by the Prime Minister's unilateral cancellation of HS2 phase 2. While the additional infrastructure would not have been available within the proposed start dates for the Open Access operators in the longer term it would have providing the breathing space for expanding services using the legacy WCML.

    Also it is not just passenger operators looking for additional paths. With at least two new WCML rail connected freight interchanges due to open the freight operators are hungry for additional paths to expand their services.

  • david C smith, Bletchley

    A direct service to London from Rochdale / Manchester Victoria seems a very useful addition , helping the whole area around , Bolton , Salford , etc to be better connected to London and points south of Manchester ( would a stop at Salford Central be useful ?).

    It may be interesting to compare Manchester to London , currently with only one (monopoly) operator with the situation for Birmingham to London, with three competing operators , Avanti, Chiltern and LNWR. How do each of these routes "score" ?