New date set for high-speed rail link to the Capital

A new high-speed rail link between Wearside and London should be running in September, operators confirmed last night.

A new high-speed rail link between Wearside and London should be running in September, operators confirmed last night.

The service from Sunderland to the capital, via Hartlepool and Eaglescliffe, has been dogged by a series of setbacks since operator Grand Central won the right to operate the route.

Problems obtaining the trains and later parts for the engines forced Grand Central to put back the start date.

But last night managing director Ian Yeowart (corr) confirmed the company hopes to have the service running by September 10.

The service will see 125mph trains head to the capital three times a day direct from Sunderland.

Mr Yeowart said: "We are expecting to get hold of the trains in June and be testing them in July.

"With the railways things are never certain because the component parts can sometimes be a problem, but as things stand we expect to start on September 10."

The announcement comes after a string of problems in the long-running saga over the route.

In January 2006, the Government's rail regulator gave Grand Central approval to start services in December last year but East Coast Main Line operator GNER bitterly opposed the decision.

GNER took the case to the High Court, but lost their claim that the rail regulator's decision was unlawful. Grand Central claimed the court case meant time was too short to secure the trains it needed to begin services in December and set a new target date of May 20.

Meanwhile the company was sold by its majority shareholder Fraser Eagle to a private equity company.

It then had problems obtaining engine parts meaning the May deadline was postponed.

Mr Yeowart said: "We have waited 50 years for this service. The last thing we are going to do is give people one that's not reliable."

Chloe Griffiths

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