With the opening of St Pancras and its high-speed line to the continent, the approval of Crossrail, and glimpses of the futuristic bullet trains that will soon call London home, there are plenty of encouraging signs that Britain's rail network is in good health. They don't come much more inspiring than the former railway man who has set up his own rail service.
Grand Central Rail was established in 2000 by former British Rail manager Ian Yeowart, with the aim of operating "open access" rail services in the north of England. After reevaluating the location, in 2005 GCR submitted an application to run a service from Kings Cross to Sunderland. And that's when the problems started. GNER didn't quite fancy the idea of this upstart spoiling their monopoly, and fought tooth and nail to keep them out, a campaign that resulted in a High Court review going the way of Grand Central. Since then, problems with rolling stock and other logistical issues have further delayed the launch of the service. But it seems most of the work is now done, the stock is finally being delivered to the operator, and by the end of this month the first Grand Central train should pull out of Kings Cross for the journey north.
Is this the future of public transport? Plucky idealists with big plans and the desire to take on the big boys? Londonist wonders if it'll inspire more citizen-led transport "solutions" (as management wonks like to call them). If someone bought up a stock of Routemasters and had them ply the streets of London, they'd easily win over the bendy-hating crowd. Perhaps some bright spark could finally convince TfL to re-open the Kingsway Tunnel for tram traffic. And is it too late to introduce a hovercraft service on the Thames?
Image from Neil101's Flickrstream