Virgin will be going ahead with its plans to require reservations from all passengers, which it unveiled in April, if it is allowed to run a new open access service between Liverpool and London from 2021. The operator’s future as a franchise holder is in doubt after its bid with Stagecoach and SNCF for West Coast Partnership was rejected by the Department for Transport as ‘non-compliant’, while the present West Coast franchise is due to end in March 2020. Virgin has lodged an open access application with the ORR to provide an hourly ‘airline-style’ service during most of the day. Virgin said fares would be guaranteed to be at least 10 per cent cheaper than other operators. However, passengers whose travel plans were frustrated by disruption would not be able to catch the next train. Instead, they would be entitled to a full refund. Catering would be provided at-seat, along with free Wifi, films and tv on board.
GB Railfreight has secured a lease for the long-disused March Up Yard sidings complex in Cambridgeshire, in partnership with Network Rail. The site is just over 1.2 hectares in size and will accommodate trains up to 320m. It will operate in conjunction with the Down Yard, south of the main line, which GBRf already uses. The line through March is part of the nationally designated freight route between Felixstowe and Nuneaton, and the Felixstowe line is already being upgraded with some double track to improve the capacity for freight trains serving the port. The revived Up sidings at March will be used initially for the stabling and maintenance of rolling stock used between Middleton Towers and Yorkshire, as well as wagons used to carry aggregates between the Peak District and East Anglia.