Timetables revealed for new service

Train timetables for the new direct services from Sunderland to London were revealed for the first time yesterday.

Train timetables for the new direct services from Sunderland to London were revealed for the first time yesterday.

New rail firm Grand Central has unveiled details of its thrice-daily route which will run from Wearside to King's Cross and back, as it cleared the last hurdle of red tape to allow the services to begin.

The office of Rail Regulation has now given the company the three formal clearances it needs to operate trains on the British network.

Giles Fearnly, chairman of Grand Central, yesterday praised managing director Ian Yeowart and operations director Sean English for their hard work.

He said: "I am delighted that all the hard work of Ian, Sean and the rest of the Grand Central team has secured these final pieces of the regulatory jigsaw. With refurbishment work on our initial fleet progressing well, we are now cleared and ready for the planned launch of our scheduled services."

Return fares to London on the trains will cost £68.

The announcement comes after the firm had to overcome a string of hurdles in the long-running saga over the route.

In January last year 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 and then a lack of engine parts meant the date was delayed again.

Mr Yeowart said: "We're expecting the first trains out some time in June and we'll be testing them on the route. People will be able to see them punting about in the next couple of months as we get them tested.

"September 9 or 10 is the day we plan to start."

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