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Grand Union revises S Wales plan

01 June 2020

Prospective open access train operator Grand Union Trains has revised its proposed South Wales to London service, extending them to Carmarthen.

Grand Union has applied to the Office of Rail and Road for a 15-year track access contract commencing in December 2021. 

Services would initially operate at two-hourly intervals from Cardiff Central to London Paddington, calling at Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction and Bristol Parkway.  

These services would make use of redundant electric trains  from the East Coast (Class 91 and Mark IV coaches), owned by Eversholt Rail. 

In “late 2023 or 2024” Grand Union proposes extending its services to Carmarthen with intermediate calls at Swansea and Llanelli. The line west of Cardiff is non-electrified, so Grand Union plans to acquire a fleet of bi-mode trains from Hitachi, of the type used on the Great Western Railway franchise. 

Grand Union says the services will ensure South Wales reaps the benefits of the Great Western electrification programme.  

“Apart from token additional services in the peak, South Wales has not seen an increase in the frequency of its regular train service to/from London with the recent infrastructure changes despite the very reasonable request of the Welsh Government,” it says. “Carmarthen and Llanelli have only a token through service to London dictated by the use of marginal capacity in First Great Western resources. At the same time Bristol is seeing its London service frequency increase by almost 100 per cent to four an hour to/from Bristol Temple Meads station.”

Grand Union proposes that Severn Tunnel Junction station should become a major parkway station, with direct access from the M4. It also proposes calling at the proposed Cardiff Parkway station if and when it opens (LTT 13 Sep 19). 

Grand Union plans to initially deploy take five or six East Coast trainsets, though only three will be needed to cover the Cardiff diagrams. This will allow train maintenance to be conducted by existing depots during the day, when depot activities are lighter. 

The extra trains will also enable Grand Union to run additional services to support major events in South Wales, for example at the Principality Stadium and Celtic Manor Resort. 

Grand Union proposes selling tickets on trains. Its application to the ORR does not explain how this policy will work at gated stations, such as Paddington, Bristol Parkway and Cardiff.


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