New methods of assessing applications have significantly increased the prospect for further open access services on the East Coast Main Line


gnerAlliance Rail wants to run new ‘GNER’ services on the ECML


The prospect of further open access services being approved on the East Coast Main Line appears to have increased significantly as a result of new methods of assessing applications developed for the Office of Rail and Road.

The ORR last week approved the first open access competition on the West Coast Main Line – an application from Arriva-owned  Alliance Rail to run Blackpool-London services. In its ruling on this application, the ORR revealed that its consultants, CH2M Hill, had created a new approach to assess open access proposals from FirstGroup and Alliance to compete with franchised operator Virgin Trains East Coast on the ECML.

They include a ‘gravity model’ technique which takes fuller account of the potential for new services to attract new users based on factors including  population and wage levels in the vicinity of stations, and train service quality.

When Alliance applied this gravity model to its application for new Blackpool-London services, it suggested the ratio of new revenue generated/revenue abstracted would be around 0.55:1 – well above the 0.295:1 indicated by the ORR’s initial assessment using the industry’s standard MOIRA model and the 0.3:1 ratio open access applications must achieve to pass ORR’s NPA (not primarily abstractive) test.

ORR ruled that the model had been applied correctly but largely discounted the findings in assessing the London-Blackpool application as the parameters applied were developed by CH2M Hill for ECML stations and because it was not able to verify whether double counting had been avoided. However, it considered that the model would be “potentially useful” in assessing applications on the ECML.


  • Alliance Rail is seeking to run new ‘GNER’ services between London and destinations in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Tyneside and Scotland.
  • Hull Trains owner FirstGroup has applied to run 10 services per day between London and Edinburgh.

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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