Rail regulator approves new train service between Carmarthen and London
Rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road said it has approved the introduction of a new train service between south-west Wales and London.
Prospective operator Grand Union Trains wants to run five daily return services between Carmarthen and London Paddington from 2025.
Passengers travelling between London, Bristol Parkway, Severn Tunnel Junction, Newport, Cardiff, Gowerton, Llanelli and Carmarthen will benefit from an extra five daily return services and greater choice of operator, the regulator said.
The decision opens up the Great Western Main Line to competition for the first time, with potential benefits in terms of lower fares, improved service quality and innovation for all passengers using the route.
The application, submitted to ORR in June 2022, was disputed by Network Rail due to concerns about capacity on the network. But following “careful consideration and analysis,” ORR has directed Network Rail to enter into a contract with Grand Union, they said.
Grand Union has committed to significant investment in new trains. As an ‘open access’ train operator, however, it will not get paid subsidies from public funds, unlike current operators along the route.
ORR supports new open access where it delivers competition for the benefit of passengers. In making this decision, the regulator has weighed this up against the impact on Government funds and effect on other users of the railway, both passengers and freight customers.
Stephanie Tobyn, Director of Strategy, Policy and Reform at ORR said: “This decision supports more choice for passengers, new direct journey opportunities, more price competition, and new comfortable trains.
“The added competition should also make a significant contribution to innovation in terms of the routes served, ticketing practices and service quality improvements, by both Grand Union and through the response of existing operators.”
A fleet of new bi-mode trains, which can be powered by electricity or diesel, will be used, Grand Union said.
Passengers will benefit from “best experience in the market” with bigger seats, more legroom, increased luggage space and a buffet car on every service, according to Grand Union.
The project is being developed in partnership with European investment company Serena Industrial Partners and Spanish train operator Renfe.
Grand Union will be an open access operator, meaning it will not receive subsidies from public funds.
The UK Government issues contracts for most train services on Britain’s railways.
The four existing open access operators are Grand Central, Heathrow Express, Hull Trains and Lumo.
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