Sunday, 6 November 2011

Goodbye Grand Central?

Perhaps not; we shall see ...

This from Grand Central's web site. watch and enjoy

On Friday morning, 4th November, Tom Clift ...
... Managing Director of Grand Central Railway sent an email to his staff informing them that they had been taken over by Arriva, itself owned by Deutsche Bahn. The email also formed the basis of a BBC on-line news report.

The acquisition, for an undisclosed amount, adds to Arriva's UK Trains portfolio of the CrossCountry, Arriva Trains Wales and Chiltern Railways franchises, and concessions to operate the Tyne and Wear Metro and (as a joint venture) London Overground operations.

This has to be good news for us in that it will provide us with greater "clout" within the industry. The main strength of the deal is that it will enable the Company to be developed to the next level by having greater resources available to help us in that cause. Arriva believe the open access model has real potential and can complement their franchises and concessions. Their wider operational and marketing expertise can help make this business a great success. Conversely, the Grand Central team brings with it further expertise which can inform Arriva's future open access proposals.

GC will continue to be a self contained Company based in York and will continue to be lead by me as MD. I will report to Bob Holland, MD of Arriva's UK Trains division. It will be very much "Business as usual" going forward.

Business as usual? Hmmmm? Time will tell, indeed.

The under-performing Wrexham and Shropshire Company got the chop under the aegis of Deutsche Bahn, so you have to wonder. "Informed sources" suggest that the Kings Cross to Hartlepool and Sunderland service ...
... is "profitable" but that the Bradford route is "short of expectations".
GC got off to a bad start with appalling unreliability from its second hand bought-in HST trains ...
... on some days being unable to operate any service at all. Those tough times were soon put behind them, however, and a solid reliable service has been operated (mostly) since.

GC never delivered on its high aspirations to emulate the luxury travel of the immediate post war period as typified by its name and the iconic Grand Central station in New York.
The full restaurant service never materialised and fbb failed to meet the Marilyn Monroe look-alike whose voluptuous image graced the end panels of the coaches! Shame!
But the Company has worked hard with special offers and and cut-price fare sales to successfully attract new ridership.
fbb has travelled with GC on several occasions and the outstanding feature of the service has been the service! The staff have shown a commitment, a friendliness and an anxiety to please which simply does not happen with the larger operators. fbb acquaintances have reported particularly helpful levels of support and information when things go wrong, not an unknown occurrence on the frail infastructure of the East Coast main line.

The buffet is stocked almost exclusively with products manufactured in the North ...
... with fbb particularly enjoying the occasional well-filled sandwich.
So the key question is this: will corporate ownership, enforced group targets, ruthless financial control etc. etc. begin to undermine the cosy, almost folksy, family atmosphere generated by the staff?

It would be sad, indeed, to see that dedicated personal commitment evaporate under "big management". Tom Clift suggests that it will remain a Northward looking "family" operation. fbb really hopes so!

P.S. Do the HSTs still set off the fire alarms at Sunderland?

Next blog : due Monday November 7th

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