East Coast Open Access decisions made: First Group and VTEC win whilst GC lose

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FQTV

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Mod Note: Thread title changed to reflect announcement now made.

Apologies if there's an open thread for this; all the ones I could find are old and closed.

DigitalLook is reporting this morning that the latest ORR-commissioned report into East Coast Open Access is backing OA between the capitals:

Bad news for Stagecoach and Virgin Trains emerged as a report commission by the Office of Rail and Road backed proposals to introduce 'open access' competition to the east coast main line between London and Edinburgh.

A report by engineering consultants CH2M Hill commissioned by the ORR said there was “irrefutable” proof that competition would bring significant economic benefits, the Times reported on Monday.

This follows a report in March from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) sent to the Secretary of State for Transport that examined the possibilities for introducing greater competition between passenger train operators on all franchises.

http://www.digitallook.com/news/news-and-announcements/stagecoach-virgin-face-open-access-competition-on-east-coast-train-line--1155963.html

The underlying story has, as the quote says, come from a (paywalled) report in the business section of today's The Times - which is in itself rather badly-written!
 
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geoffk

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We don't need this. We have enough trains between London and Edinburgh. What is needed are better local services north of Newcastle and between Edinburgh and Dunbar, as well as paths for freight. All this could be compromised by having more and more fast passenger trains, especially those which add nothing to what's already on offer.

Open Access works where it offers something new - e.g. Hull Trains and Grand Central. I hope DfT will knock this on the head.
 

route:oxford

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We don't need this. We have enough trains between London and Edinburgh. What is needed are better local services north of Newcastle and between Edinburgh and Dunbar, as well as paths for freight. All this could be compromised by having more and more fast passenger trains, especially those which add nothing to what's already on offer.

Open Access works where it offers something new - e.g. Hull Trains and Grand Central. I hope DfT will knock this on the head.

What is needed is both.

Perhaps make a start by building a High-Speed bypass for Morpeth?

Then follow through by major improvements to Berwick-Upon-Tweed?

Just wandering around the platform https://goo.gl/maps/9oZWb2kFFmq there would appear to be plenty of room to have two additional platforms for stopping services that would permit London services to overtake.

Then at Dunbar, either do the same and build a Morpeth Style high spped bypass or update the station to have 4 platforms to permit express services to pass stoppers. I suspect with the curve at Dunbar, it's actually easier to build the bypass than to build a couple of new platforms on a curve.
 

geoffk

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Open Access operators have to satisfy a "not primarily abstractive" test. Clearly a Kings Cross - Edinburgh service would fail this test, whereas direct services to, say, Grimsby/ Cleethorpes would not. The ORR seems not to have understood this.
 

glbotu

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Open Access operators have to satisfy a "not primarily abstractive" test. Clearly a Kings Cross - Edinburgh service would fail this test, whereas direct services to, say, Grimsby/ Cleethorpes would not. The ORR seems not to have understood this.

I mean, it's the ORR's rule in the first place, they've probably got the freedom to do what they want. If they think adding in an additional London - Ediburgh OAO service will be beneficial, then it's kind of their call.

Better local services North of Newcastle are happening, with an hourly TPE stopper, which my understanding is, will call at Dunbar, Berwick, Alnmouth and Morpeth. Unless you're thinking of the villages of Chathill, Widdrington, Pegswood etc, which as has been exhaustively discussed, simply don't warrant a remake of the ECML timetable. I could see some benefit in more frequent Morpeth services, but coupled with more of a Newcastle Surburban service, with more stops (ie: new stations), but that's probably a bit too fantastic and would require faster trains (like some 100mph EMUs, rather than chucking 75mph Sprinters up a 110mph railway line, but that sounds way too sensible..........)
 

dcsprior

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We don't need this. We have enough trains between London and Edinburgh.

There may be enough trains, but are they priced competitively enough? I've seen prices rise by ~30% in the last year or so at the time I'd want to travel (so a ~50% increase when you factor in the loss of rewards free tickets) so Easyjet have gained an extra customer twice a week. If a different rail company can undercut VTEC and win my custom back from air to rail, surely that's a good thing. If VTEC reduce their prices too to respond to the new competition, that's an even better thing.
 
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43074

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Open Access works where it offers something new - e.g. Hull Trains and Grand Central. I hope DfT will knock this on the head.

The DfT don't really have a say, they are against Open Access because it impacts on payments between the TOCs & the DfT (i.e. it can increase the subsidy required or decrease the premium paid by the TOC). The final decision on whether or not paths are granted to a prospective TOC is within the remit of the Rail Regulator.

Better local services North of Newcastle are happening, with an hourly TPE stopper, which my understanding is, will call at Dunbar, Berwick, Alnmouth and Morpeth. Unless you're thinking of the villages of Chathill, Widdrington, Pegswood etc, which as has been exhaustively discussed, simply don't warrant a remake of the ECML timetable. I could see some benefit in more frequent Morpeth services, but coupled with more of a Newcastle Surburban service, with more stops (ie: new stations), but that's probably a bit too fantastic and would require faster trains (like some 100mph EMUs, rather than chucking 75mph Sprinters up a 110mph railway line, but that sounds way too sensible..........)

My understanding was that the TPE service will call at Morpeth only - Alnmouth, Berwick & Dunbar certainly haven't been mentioned in any of the PR relating to their plans for the new franchise.
 

swt_passenger

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My understanding was that the TPE service will call at Morpeth only - Alnmouth, Berwick & Dunbar certainly haven't been mentioned in any of the PR relating to their plans for the new franchise.

They weren't mentioned in the track access application for the services, either.
 

geoffk

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Unless you're thinking of the villages of Chathill, Widdrington, Pegswood etc

Not really, more about Cramlington and a new station at Killingworth. A 100 mph emu would certainly be better able to keep out of the way of fast trains, if electrification was extended to Metro Centre. Pegswood and Widdrington might have some potential, given a (slightly) better service. Of course, Alnwick would have been the logical terminus of the Newcastle local service!

Does removal of the "not primarily abstractive" rule not require a change in the law?
 

Roose

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Interesting. (And a suggestion in Rail this week that VTEC fares income is already not matching projections. Of course the 'leak' this may not be unconnected with a leak of the ORR report...)
 

class26

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Interesting. (And a suggestion in Rail this week that VTEC fares income is already not matching projections. Of course the 'leak' this may not be unconnected with a leak of the ORR report...)

Was also in the Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago
 

swt_passenger

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Clarence Yard

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ORR decision on the ECML applications due to be published tomorrow morning. All applicants have been informed what the decision is.
 

jw

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Can anyone provide a brief synopsis of what both VTEC and First will offer with these new paths, and likely rolling stock? My memory has failed me.

Sent from my HTC 10 using Tapatalk
 

Chrism20

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Can anyone provide a brief synopsis of what both VTEC and First will offer with these new paths, and likely rolling stock? My memory has failed me.

Sent from my HTC 10 using Tapatalk

http://orr.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/21885/2016-05-12-ecml-decision-letter.pdf

The applications considered were:
(i) From the franchisee VTEC to increase its services to make use of new IEP (Intercity Express Programme) rolling stock. The application would add more trains to Edinburgh through the day1, existing services would be extended to Harrogate and Lincoln in alternating hours and a new 2-hourly Middlesbrough service would be added;
(ii) From GNER for a fast new hourly Edinburgh service, calling at Newcastle and occasionally Stevenage, and using new tilting Pendolino trains;
(iii) From GNER for 7 return trains/day between London and Bradford/Ilkley and 4 return trains/day between London and Cleethorpes (via Doncaster), using new Hitachi bi-mode trains; and
(iv) From FirstGroup for 5 off-peak return services a day between London and Edinburgh calling variously at Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth, using new trains comparable to IEP rolling stock.
 

absolutelymilk

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From the BBC:

First Group to run Edinburgh to London budget rail service

A new budget rail service between Edinburgh and London has been given the green light by the Rail Regulator.

The 10-year deal will allow First Group to operate five trains a day each way via intermediate stations at Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth from 2021.

It said average fares would be less than £25 and there would be only one class of carriage.

Tim O'Toole, chief executive of FirstGroup, said: "Our brand new trains will be cheaper than other rail services, greener than the plane, quicker than the coach and will get passengers from London to Edinburgh earlier than they can arrive now, and all for an average fare for less than £25."
 

sprinterguy

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Hmmm, so lots more trains between Edinburgh and Newcastle; probably the quietest section of the ECML in terms of passenger numbers; after 2020 when you add up the additional 4TPD with VTEC, 5TPD with First and hourly TPE Liverpool - Edinburgh service, while Cleethorpes, Grimsby and Scunthorpe lose out, due to not being commercially viable without being propped up by significant levels of revenue abstraction by GNER on their West Yorkshire route, despite significant improvements to direct London services for Lincoln, Bradford, Harrogate, Middlesbrough and, to a lesser extent, Huddersfield as part of the VTEC franchise.

As mentioned on the previous page, this doesn't leave much room for any improvement to local services north of Newcastle (new station at Killingworth, extension to Ashington or even perhaps an increase to a half hourly frequency for Cramlington) with additional fast services.

At least Morpeth is set to benefit from the new TPE Edinburgh service, and in terms of Edinburgh services this is probably the best outcome, as the open access First services should help to stimulate some competition on fares between VTEC and First on the London - Newcastle/Edinburgh corridor, without the swathes of additional services taking up space that were proposed by GNER. There will also be no less than four operators (VTEC, XC, TPE and First open access) to choose from between Newcastle and Edinburgh, and with the new open access operation working on the basis of offering cheap and cheerful fares this could help stimulate the franchised operators into action in offering their own cheap tickets (although I'll believe it when I see it with XC! ;)).

Grand Central seem concerned by a loss of revenue primarily as a result of the additional VTEC services, and probably with good reason once bi-hourly trains to Bradford (with faster journey times, no doubt), Middlesbrough and the second daily Sunderland service are introduced. I would expect GCs' Bradford route to be affected to a greater extent by this decision, and it'll be interesting to see how it continues to perform post 2020.
 
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aformeruser

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Open Access operators have to satisfy a "not primarily abstractive" test. Clearly a Kings Cross - Edinburgh service would fail this test, whereas direct services to, say, Grimsby/ Cleethorpes would not. The ORR seems not to have understood this.

Not necessarily.

First Group's application included:
* Off-Peak services from Morpeth to both Kings Cross and Edinburgh, which VTEC don't provide - they only serve Morpeth at peak times.
* Direct services from Stevenage to Edinburgh. VTEC provide no services to Edinburgh and the first arrival from Edinburgh at Stevenage is 20:25.

Grand Central's Grimsby/Cleethorpes application also included additional Ilkley/Bradford to Kings Cross services. They planned to stop all their Cleethorpes services at Doncaster and all their Ilkley/Bradford services at Leeds, obviously VTEC provide a lot of services from Kings Cross to both Doncaster and Leeds.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Better local services North of Newcastle are happening, with an hourly TPE stopper, which my understanding is, will call at Dunbar, Berwick, Alnmouth and Morpeth.

No. The TPE Liverpool-Edinburgh service will only call at Manchester Victoria, Huddersfield, Leeds, York, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle, Morpeth and Edinburgh.
 

GrimsbyPacer

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Why?
The Alliance Rail plan would of connected new places to the ECML, places which are suffering economic strain largely due to governments ignoring them.
Answer:
To keep Tory support in Scotland high.

I'm certain the West Yorks & Humber routes that were planned would of been better than yet another Edinburgh service. Grimsby has always just missed out on these new services in the past too, it's about time we had new or greatly improved services.
TransPennine aren't going to add services or cars down here.
East Midlands & Northern are happy running 153s with 2 hourly runs.
The Brigg line still only gets Saturday Trains.
And last weekend a HST showed up in Cleethorpes just to raise hopes.
Whilst the National Express, Humber Coast & City, GNER, East Midlands plans all fall through.
When are we going to get a new service?
 

Deerfold

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Why?
The Alliance Rail plan would of connected new places to the ECML, places which are suffering economic strain largely due to governments ignoring them.
Answer:
To keep Tory support in Scotland high.

I don't think it's possible to *keep* Tory support in Scotland high, is it?
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Open Access operators have to satisfy a "not primarily abstractive" test. Clearly a Kings Cross - Edinburgh service would fail this test, whereas direct services to, say, Grimsby/ Cleethorpes would not. The ORR seems not to have understood this.

I thought VTEC's win of the East Coast Franchise was on the understanding that there would be paths between London and Edinburgh for an OAO.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Two important points:
The new access rights have been approved without reference to the new TPE paths north of York (apparently no track access application has been made for them yet).
They are also contingent on ECML upgrades by NR (4-tracking at Woodwalton and a flyover at Werrington), hence the 2021 start date for some new services.
The implication is: no upgrade, no extra services.

The GNER West Yorks extra trains were considered too abstractive, and the Cleethorpes service is not viable on its own.
Their Edinburgh proposal was sunk by the cost (and by the sound of it the reluctance of NR) of installing tilt infrastructure.

Not a bad analysis by ORR, and seems fairly even-handed.
DfT/VTEC did not ride rough-shod over open access, and FirstGroup is the clear winner.
VTEC get their extra services, but at a significant cost in abstraction from First.
There are concerns that the impact on GNER may cause them to reconsider their existing operation, because of further abstraction.
Also another blow for Alstom. Presumably all the new trains will be from Hitachi.

FirstGroup press release:
http://www.firstgroupplc.com/about-firstgroup/uk-rail/eastcoast.aspx
http://otp.investis.com/generic/regulatory-story.aspx?newsid=721788&cid=858
 
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aformeruser

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Grimsby has always just missed out on these new services in the past too, it's about time we had new or greatly improved services.

To me a town with a population of 88,000 getting 450,000 journeys per annum when there are 70 services stopping there on weekdays sounds like the current level of service meets the current demand. On average, there are less passengers boarding/alighting existing services at Grimsby than there are in many smaller towns.

East Midlands & Northern are happy running 153s with 2 hourly runs.
...
When are we going to get a new service?

Is it really a new service you need or the local services which are currently 2 hourly enhanced to run more frequently?
 
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43074

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Why?
The Alliance Rail plan would of connected new places to the ECML, places which are suffering economic strain largely due to governments ignoring them.
Answer:
To keep Tory support in Scotland high.

The government didn't really get a say as it was the ORR who was conducting the analysis, and eventually granted the paths. Judging by how many of Scotland's constituencies are SNP I don't think there's much Tory support in Scotland anyway.
 

swt_passenger

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Two important points:
The new access rights have been approved without reference to the new TPE paths north of York (apparently no track access application has been made for them yet).

They have now been made, they were linked to during April in one of the TPE threads, but they've only been in a few weeks, in comparison to the very long period these ECML applications have been taking so far.

Perhaps the statement was correct when ORR's decision letter was first drafted...
 

sprinterguy

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Why?
The Alliance Rail plan would of connected new places to the ECML, places which are suffering economic strain largely due to governments ignoring them.
Answer:
To keep Tory support in Scotland high.
...Or more realistically because Alliance themselves admitted that the Cleethorpes services would be commercially unviable without being propped up by the primarily abstractive West Yorkshire services they proposed as part of the same bid, as I mentioned above.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Perhaps the statement was correct when ORR's decision letter was first drafted...

My point really was that with additional VTEC and First paths already granted, TPE might not have a clear run.
Then there's the prospect of First running both franchise and open access services over the same route.
5tph in some hours Newcastle-Edinburgh seems too much to me (2xVTEC, XC, First, TPE).
 

Bletchleyite

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I think the First concept is interesting - and may well have been accepted as a useful experiment on different fares concepts?

Will they join ORCATS or will it be a completely closed fares system I wonder (e.g. solely online booking)? I can see why DfT may want to experiment with the latter.
 

Tetchytyke

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From http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-36273407

In a statement, Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths said that open access competition with an established franchise was not in the interests of passengers or taxpayers.

Of course not Martin. Stagecoach's price gouging is what is in the interests of Stagecoach shareholders passengers or taxpayers.

I hope First come in and blow Stagecoach out of the water.
 
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