"A Voice for Durham Coast Rail Users"

The guest speaker at our meeting on 28th September was David Armstrong, Customer Services & Operations Manager for Grand Central who gave us an informative update on the Grand Central business which in December sees the tenth anniversary of its first trains from the North East to London.

Grand Central currently has eight trains (43 passenger coaches) in service. At the end of the year the three HST’s would go off lease and be replaced by a further four 180’s from First Great Western, though one of these would be sub-leased to Hull Trains. 180108, the train already being refurbished was not now expected to be completed and back in service until mid-November. All the 180s would be refurbished throughout, but this would extend well into 2018, so the ex FGW sets would enter service in ‘debranded’ FGW livery – or in the case of 108104 in GWR green.

Performance (PPM) had recently dropped to 80%due to a combination of unrelated train faults and network problems but had since recovered to 86%. 180114 which had been fitted with prototype ECTS signalling equipment had been particularly prone to electrical faults since being put back in to service. Next year PPM was to be replaced by RTA (Right Time Arrival) which would be particularly challenging as Grand Central services were prone to suffer from late running of Northern, TPE and Virgin trains. The coming introduction of VTEC Azumas, VTEC services to Middlesbrough Northern Connect services, a revamp of the TPE timetable and open access services from Edinburgh would add additional complications in the next two years. Grand Central was full supportive of the new Horden/Peterlee station and would apply to stop their services there

Grand Central was keen to get involved with communities along their routes, and recently participated in the Brighouse Festival and Sunderland City of Culture bid. They had been instrumental in station improvement schemes such as the first class lounge at Wakefield Kirkgate and the new artwork at Hartlepool. Might we get a first class lounge at Sunderland or Hartlepool? The company was also involved with travel aware schemes to give disabled and similar groups confidence to travel by train and promoting rail safety with school children.

The coming tenth anniversary would see a uniform refresh, customer mementos, birthday cake, and souvenirs such as baseball caps and tee-shirts available for sale. Watch out for more information.