Alliance Rail Holdings
Dissolved14 February 2023[1]
Acting Managing Director
Richard McClean
Parent organization
Arriva UK Trains

Alliance Rail Holdings was a railway company developing plans to operate passenger trains in the United Kingdom through its subsidiaries Great North Western Railway Company Limited (GNWR)[2] and Grand Southern Railway (GSR). Despite various proposals, the company did not run any passenger services.

Alliance had undertaken detailed timetabling and economic work to support its applications to the Office of Rail & Road (ORR). Alliance was headed by Richard McClean who is also managing director of Grand Central. A new development team was announced on 12 August 2010.[3] The venture was wholly owned by Arriva.[4] On 23 February 2023, the company was legally dissolved. [1]

Approved proposals

Great North Western Railway

Great North Western Railway[5] (GNWR) was planned to become an open-access train operating company. GNWR was granted permission by the Office of Rail & Road to operate up to five return services per day between London Euston and Blackpool North, via the West Coast Main Line, to commence in September 2019. However, in June 2019, it was revealed the services would be operated by sister company Grand Central from spring 2020 instead of September 2019.[6]

In 2010, GNWR lodged an application to operate services from London Euston to Bradford Interchange, Whitehaven, Windermere, Southport and Morecambe. However, these were rejected in 2011 by the ORR.[7] An amended application was lodged in 2011.[8]

In June 2014, GNWR successfully concluded negotiations with Network Rail for access paths from London Euston to Blackpool, Huddersfield and Leeds from 2017 using Pendolino trains.[9] However, in January 2015 and despite Network Rail support, the ORR refused these proposed GNWR services citing capacity issues and failing the not primarily abstractive test, meaning most of its revenue would be at the expense of existing users rather than new custom.[10] In 2010, it was proposed that services be operated by dual-mode (diesel + electric) Polaris trains,[11] capable of 140 mph (230 km/h).[12] Sixteen trainsets were expected to be ordered, with a capacity of up to 350 passengers each.[13] However, the Polaris deal was not finalised and Alliance indicated that it was investigating purchasing Pendolinos from Alstom.[14]

In August 2015, the ORR announced Alliance Rail's amended application to operate six trains per day from London Euston to Blackpool calling at Milton Keynes, Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield Trent Valley, Crewe, Preston, Kirkham & Wesham and Poulton-le-Fylde had been successful. A 10-year access agreement was awarded with operations to commence in May 2018.[15][16] These services were to have been operated by fellow Arriva subsidiary Grand Central.[17] The application proposed using 125 mph tilting Class 390 Pendolinos, however with Alliance unable to negotiate a derogation to operate the rolling stock, the access rights lapsed in June 2017.[18][19]

Alliance applied for altered paths with InterCity 225 sets to commence operating from September 2019. As these are not able to tilt, their speed would be restricted to 110 mph. Due to the lower speed, the revised service would only call at Milton Keynes, Nuneaton, Preston, Kirkham & Wesham and Poulton-le-Fylde.[19][20]

In June 2018, the Office of Rail and Road approved the new application for a 7-year track access application for 5 direct services from Blackpool North to London Euston, calling at Poulton-le-Fylde, Kirkham and Wesham, Preston, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes Central from September 2019.[21][22] An option for a 6th service in the future was available.

Until cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, Grand Central (rather than Great North Western Railway) planned to operate five daily return services between London Euston and Blackpool North via the West Coast Main Line, calling at Milton Keynes Central, Nuneaton, Preston, Kirkham and Wesham and Poulton-le-Fylde.[23]

Rejected proposals

Grand Southern Railway

In November 2016, Alliance began consultation on a proposed London Waterloo to Southampton service. It was proposed to operate seven off-peak services per day from December 2017, calling at Wimbledon, Hook, Basingstoke, Winchester and Eastleigh, with two peak services proposed from December 2018. It was set to use Class 442 trains.[24] Network Rail had identified available paths for Grand Southern to use.[19] In March 2017, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) told Grand Southern to delay the application until the outcome of the South Western franchise was known. In March 2018, the ORR released an update confirming a delay to the application. The application was eventually rejected in August 2018.[25]

The reason for the rejection was that the Class 442s were no longer available. The proposal also generated only between £0.17 and £0.22 of new revenue for each pound abstracted from the incumbent operators, and the ORR requires it to be over £0.30, so it failed the "not primarily abstractive" test.[26]

Great North Eastern Railway

Great North Eastern Railway

GNER, resurrecting the name of the defunct Sea Containers subsidiary lodged an application to operate from London King's Cross to Cleethorpes, Bradford Forster Square, Ilkley and Edinburgh from 2018.[27] These were rejected in May 2016.[28]

It also proposed in 2009 to operate services from London King's Cross to Scarborough via the Yorkshire Coast Line, Skegness, Sheffield via Grantham, Grimsby and Middlesbrough, but these were rejected in 2010 by the ORR. It was also proposed in December 2013 that services would run services between Kings Cross and Skipton, but these were withdrawn in 2014 by the ORR.


  1. ^ a b Companies House extract company no 7026295 Alliance Rail Holdings Limited
  2. ^ Companies House extract company no 6938935 Great North Western Railway Company Limited
  3. ^ "New development team announced" (Press release). Alliance Rail. 12 August 2010. Archived from the original on 3 September 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  4. ^ Silvester, Katie (October 2010). "Interview: Ian Yeowart". Rail Professional. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  5. ^ Companies House extract company no 06938935 Great North Western Railway Company Limited
  6. ^ New Blackpool-London train link is on track Lancashire Business View; 24 June 2019
  7. ^ "GC slams ORR over WCML" Today's Railways UK issue 113 May 2011 page 14
  8. ^ "Alliance submits bid for West Coast paths" Modern Railways issue 757 October 2011 page 9
  9. ^ "GNWR granted access to West Coast main line",, 12 June 2014
    - "Track Access Contract (Passenger Services) (Non-Franchised Passenger Services)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 July 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  10. ^ "West Coast Main Line open-access bid rejected" International Railway Journal 8 January 2015
    - "ORR rejects Great North Western's Leeds ambitions" Rail issue 766 21 January 2015 page 21
  11. ^ Miles, Tony (December 2010). "Blackpool through service proposed in West Coast path frenzy". Modern Railways. London. p. 6.
    - Wild, Laura (9 June 2010). "Full steam ahead for Rochdale to London train service". Rochdale Online. Retrieved 25 October 2010.
  12. ^ Kilner, Will (20 October 2010). "Rail operator plans new 140mph service to London". Telegraph & Argus. Bradford. Archived from the original on 23 October 2010. Retrieved 25 October 2010.
  13. ^ Abbit, Bethany (4 November 2010). "Bid to connect Cumbria to London with pioneering new trains". The Westmorland Gazette. Kendal. Archived from the original on 7 November 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  14. ^ New Edinburgh – London Rail Services Archived 20 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine Alliance Rail Holdings 12 December 2013
  15. ^ Milner, Chris (7 August 2015). "Green light for Alliance Holdings service to Blackpool". The Railway Magazine. Archived from the original on 10 August 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
    - "Alliance Blackpool Service Approved". Modern Railways. Vol. 72, no. 804. September 2015. p. 8. ISSN 0026-8356. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
    - "ORR approves Blackpool open access trains" Rail Magazine issue 781 19 August 2015 page 22
  16. ^ "Blackpool open access services approved" Today's Railways issue 166 October 2015 page 9
  17. ^ "Alliance Blackpool Service Approved" Modern Railways issue 804 September 2015 page 8
  18. ^ "HSTs for Alliance Rail as Pendolino plans face difficulties" Today's Railways issue 182 February 2017 page 14
  19. ^ a b c Alliance drops Pendolino plan as Southampton paths identified Railway Gazette International 19 July 2017
  20. ^ "Alliance Rail Holdings: Projects".
  21. ^ "Application for a new track access contract for services between London Euston and Blackpool North – Track access decision letter – 7 June 2018". Office of Rail and Road.
  22. ^ "Alliance Rail Holdings – NEW BLACKPOOL TO LONDON RAIL SERVICES APPROVED". Archived from the original on 10 September 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  23. ^ "Blackpool to London services". Alliance Rail Holdings. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  24. ^ Projects Alliance Rail Holdings
    - Southampton – London open access service proposed Railway Gazette International 8 November 2016
    - "Great Southern signals more choice on railways" The Times 9 November 2016
  25. ^ Office of Rail and Road,
  26. ^ "Southampton to London open-access proposal rejected". Railway Gazette. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  27. ^ Great North Eastern Railway Archived 12 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine Alliance Rail Holdings
    - "Alliance reveals London-Edinburgh plan". Rail Magazine. No. 776. 10 June 2015. p. 18.
  28. ^ Applications for the East Coast Main Line Office of Rail & Road 12 May 2016
    - First Group to run Edinburgh to London budget rail service BBC News 12 May 2016
    - VTEC and FirstGroup granted East Coast Main Line paths Railway Gazette International 12 May 2016