Great North Western Railway

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Great North Western Railway
Franchise(s) Open-access operator
Not subject to franchising
Starts September 2019
Main region(s) West Coast Main Line
Fleet size InterCity 225 sets
(number TBC)
Stations called at 7
Parent company Alliance Rail Holdings
(Arriva UK Trains)

Great North Western Railway[1] (GNWR) is a future open-access train operating company in the United Kingdom, owned by Arriva UK Trains subsidiary Alliance Rail Holdings. GNWR has been granted permission by the Office of Rail & Road to operate up to five return services per day between London Euston and Blackpool North, via the West Coast Main Line, commencing in September 2019.


Initial proposals[edit]

In 2010, GNWR lodged an application to operate services from London Euston to Bradford Interchange, Whitehaven, Windermere, Southport and Morecambe. However, these were rejected in 2011 by the ORR.[2] An amended application was lodged in 2011.[3]

In June 2014, GNWR successfully concluded negotiations with Network Rail for access paths from London Euston to Blackpool, Huddersfield and Leeds from 2017 using Pendolino trains.[4] However, in January 2015 and despite Network Rail support, the ORR refused these proposed GNWR services citing capacity issues and failing the not primarily abstractive test, meaning most of its revenue would be at the expense of existing others rather than new custom.[5] In 2010, it was proposed that services be operated by dual-mode (diesel + electric) Polaris trains,[6] capable of 140 mph (230 km/h).[7] Sixteen trainsets were expected to be ordered, with a capacity of up to 350 passengers each.[8] However, the Polaris deal was not finalised and Alliance indicated that it was investigating purchasing Pendolinos from Alstom.[9]

In August 2015, the ORR announced Alliance Rail's amended application to operate six trains per day from London Euston to Blackpool calling at Milton Keynes, Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield Trent Valley, Crewe, Preston, Kirkham & Wesham and Poulton-le-Fylde had been successful. A 10-year access agreement was awarded with operations to commence in May 2018.[10][11] These services were to have been operated by fellow Arriva subsidiary Grand Central.[12] The application proposed using 125mph tilting Class 390 Pendolinos, however with Alliance unable to negotiate a derogation to operate the rolling stock, the access rights lapsed in June 2017.[13][14]

Approved application[edit]

Alliance re-applied for paths with former Virgin Trains East Coast InterCity 225 sets to commence operating from September 2019. As these will not able to tilt, their speed would be restricted to 110mph. Due to the lower speed, the revised service would only call at Milton Keynes, Nuneaton, Preston, Kirkham & Wesham and Poulton-le-Fylde.[14][15]

In June 2018, the Office of Rail and Road approved the new application for a 7-year track access application for 5 direct services from Blackpool North to London Euston, calling at Poulton-le-Fylde, Kirkham and Wesham, Preston, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes Central from September 2019. [16][17] An option for a 6th service in the future is available.


From September 2019, Great North Western Railway will operate five daily return services between London Euston and Blackpool North via the West Coast Main Line, calling at Milton Keynes Central, Nuneaton, Preston, Kirkham and Wesham and Poulton-le-Fylde.[18]

Rolling stock[edit]


The number of InterCity 225 sets to be procured has not yet been confirmed. Each set is planned to operate with seven[19] passenger carriages.

 Trainset   Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Carriages   Notes
 mph   km/h 
InterCity 225
Class 91 Loco 91105 at King's Cross.JPG Electric locomotive 140 225 TBC 2 + 7 Will be limited to 110 mph as it is a non-tilting train.
Mark 4 carriage Rake of VTEC Mark 4 London Kings Cross 1.jpg Passenger carriage 140 225 TBC
Driving Van Trailer Peterborough - LNER 82224 (Virgin livery).JPG Driving Van Trailer 140 225 TBC


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 06938935 Great North Western Railway Company Limited
  2. ^ "GC slams ORR over WCML" Today's Railways issue 113 May 2011 page 14
  3. ^ "Alliance submits bid for West Coast paths" Modern Railways issue 757 October 2011 page 9
  4. ^ "GNWR granted access to West Coast main line",, 12 June 2014 
    - "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 July 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2014. 
  5. ^ "West Coast Main Line open-access bid rejected" International Railway Journal 8 January 2015
    - "ORR rejects Great North Western's Leeds ambitions" Rail Magazine issue 766 21 January 2015 page 21
  6. ^ Miles, Tony (December 2010). "Blackpool through service proposed in West Coast path frenzy". Modern Railways. London. p. 6. 
    - Wild, Laura (9 June 2010). "Full steam ahead for Rochdale to London train service". Rochdale Online. Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  7. ^ Kilner, Will (20 October 2010). "Rail operator plans new 140mph service to London". Telegraph & Argus. Bradford. Archived from the original on 23 October 2010. Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  8. ^ Abbit, Bethany (4 November 2010). "Bid to connect Cumbria to London with pioneering new trains". The Westmorland Gazette. Kendal. Archived from the original on 7 November 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  9. ^ New Edinburgh – London Rail Services Alliance Rail Holdings 12 December 2013
  10. ^ Milner, Chris (7 August 2015). "Green light for Alliance Holdings service to Blackpool". The Railway Magazine. 
    - "Alliance Blackpool Service Approved". Modern Railways. Vol. 72 no. 804. September 2015. p. 8. ISSN 0026-8356. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
    - "ORR approves Blackpool open access trains" Rail Magazine issue 781 19 August 2015 page 22
  11. ^ "Blackpool open access services approved" Today's Railways issue 166 October 2015 page 9
  12. ^ "Alliance Blackpool Service Approved" Modern Railways issue 804 September 2015 page 8
  13. ^ "HSTs for Alliance Rail as Pendolino plans face difficulties" Today's Railways issue 182 February 2017 page 14
  14. ^ a b Alliance drops Pendolino plan as Southampton paths identified Railway Gazette International 19 July 2017
  15. ^ "Alliance Rail Holdings: Projects". 
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^
  19. ^

External links[edit]