New train services between London and Greater Manchester planned

New train services between London and Greater Manchester could be launched to encourage more people to switch from road travel to rail.

Transport company FirstGroup announced its plan to run six return trains a day between London Euston and Rochdale via Manchester Victoria.

The last time Rochdale had a direct London link via the Manchester city centre station was in 2000.

Services would also call at Eccles, Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Bank Quay. The station at Eccles provides connectivity for Salford’s MediaCity area.

FirstGroup said it would use new UK-built trains powered by electricity and batteries.

It estimates the services, which could begin from 2027, would provide 1.6 million people in the North West with a “convenient and competitively priced direct rail service to London from stations that are more local to them”, helping to stimulate a shift in transport mode from coach and car travel to rail.

The services would be operated under FirstGroup’s Lumo brand, which currently runs between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh.

Lumo, which was launched in October 2021, runs on an open access basis, meaning it receives no taxpayer-funded subsidies and takes on all revenue risk.

Most train operators in England are paid a management fee, with the UK Government holding responsibility for costs and revenue.

FirstGroup also runs open access operator Hull Trains.

The company has submitted an application to the Office of Rail and Road seeking permission to launch the London-Rochdale route.

FirstGroup chief executive Graham Sutherland said: “We have extensive experience of running open access rail operations and we want to bring our successful Lumo service to this new route that connects Rochdale and London.

“We have seen the level of growth and opportunity that is possible with open access, as well as the positive effect it has on the wider market, including economic and environmental benefits.

“In addition, the new service will help to drive modal shift from road to rail between the North West and London.

“We will be working closely with stakeholders as we build our application and our case for this new service.”

This brings the number of proposed new open access rail routes in Britain to eight.

The Government is planning measures to encourage further schemes, such as providing more certainty over the duration of the application assessments, reconsidering the required balance of costs between taxpayers and operators, and ensuring all unused track access slots are made available.

Rail minister Huw Merriman told the PA news agency last month that open access services “give more choice to customers, and that crucially increases the number of passengers that we get”.