North Notts to London train service plans revealed

Transport operator, FirstGroup, has lodged the first phase of an application to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) for a new rail service between London and Sheffield.

FirstGroup plans to expand its open access rail operations as part of its Hull Trains business, building on its existing service between Hull and London.

Its new proposals comprise two return journeys a day from London King’s Cross, calling at Retford, Worksop, Woodhouse and Sheffield.

The company says it aims to provide a faster link between London and Sheffield than alternative services.

If it gains consent, it will run an “open access” service. Unlike most rail services, which are provided under contract to Government, open access operators retain all revenue and cost risk and opportunity.

FirstGroup says that almost three quarters of trips between London and Sheffield are currently made by car, with a further 9% of trips made by coach.

The business says a “competitively priced” new rail offering will help stimulate a shift in transport mode of choice from road to rail.

The new proposed route will give Sheffield the first regular service from London King’s Cross since 1968 and will also give Worksop in Nottinghamshire the first regular direct London trains in decades.

FirstGroup estimates there are 350,000 people in the Worksop and Woodhouse catchment areas who will have direct rail access to London because of these proposals.

It says a sizeable number of rail users in these areas currently drive to Doncaster station to pick up faster services to London rather than travelling via Sheffield.

This new application also follows FirstGroup’s second open access service, Lumo, which launched in October 2021 between London and Edinburgh.

Chief executive officer, Graham Sutherland, said: “We want to leverage our extensive experience of running open access services and repeat the success of Hull Trains and Lumo through this new route that connects London and Sheffield.

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

“The new service will help to drive modal shift from road to rail by offering customers a more sustainable travel alternative between the two cities.”

FirstGroup has submitted a formal application to the ORR. A consultation period will now follow, as well as discussion with Network Rail to secure the required approvals.

Options for trains to be used on the route will also be worked up with rolling stock leasing companies. It is anticipated services could begin in the second half of the 2025 calendar year.