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FirstGroup applies to run open access Rochdale to London rail service – Rail UK

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FirstGroup plc, has submitted the first phase of an application for a new open access rail service between Rochdale and London to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), restoring this direct link for the first time in almost a quarter of a century.

FirstGroup plans to expand its open access rail operations as part of its Lumo business, building on Lumo’s existing service which has transformed long-distance connectivity between London and Edinburgh and helped support a growth in passenger numbers for all operators on the East Coast Mainline. All of the trains on this new route will be electric and battery powered, and the service will be operated by brand new trains built in the UK.

FirstGroup’s proposal for six return journeys a day aims to restore a direct Rochdale to London link via Manchester Victoria which last ran in the year 2000. The trains will run from Rochdale to London Euston, calling at Manchester Victoria, Eccles, Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Bank Quay. The station at Eccles provides connectivity for other parts of the City of Salford, including the fast-growing MediaCity area, via the nearby interchange with Metrolink and services to Newton-le-Willows will deliver greater rail connectivity for St Helens.

It is estimated that this new service would provide 1.6 million people in the North West with a convenient and competitively priced direct rail service to London from stations that are more local to them, helping to stimulate a shift in transport mode from coach and car travel to rail.

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.”

FirstGroup has submitted a formal application to the ORR. A consultation period will now follow, as well as discussion with Network Rail to secure the required approvals. It is anticipated that services could begin in the 2027 calendar year.

Image credit: FirstGroup

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