Newest Review: ... for your journey, although it is more expensive than buying in the shop beforehand. Grand Central is also appealing with tickets. The co... more
A Grand day out
Member Name: SF07
Advantages: Cheap travel, plenty of access of plug sockets, free wi-fi
Disadvantages: Not so frequent service
Grand Central is a open-access train operator, who operate two routes from London King Cross to the North of England. Unlike other operators, they have flexibility as to where they can operate, where as other train operators are under franchise, where they operate the routes set by Network Rail.
The first route they operated is Sunderland-King Cross via Hartlepool, Eaglescliffe (for Middlesbrough), Northallerton, Thirsk and York before running non-stop to London. The second route is Bradford Interchange-King Cross via Halifax, Brighouse (for Huddersfield), Wakefield Kirkgate, Pontefract Monkhill and Doncaster before running non-stop to London.
The company uses a combination of HSTs and Class 180s on its routes. The company offer First Class travel on its busier journeys, while the restriction is removed on the quieter journeys. However, standard class seating also has good leg room, so you don't lose any comfort sitting in second class. Every row has a plug socket on the side, while allow passengers to plug in electrical items such as laptops and mobile phone chargers, so this means your batteries will be charged up at the end of your journey. For people using laptops, there is also free wi-fi for all passengers (where some train operators offer wi-fi for first class only), although sometimes connecting to the network can be problematic. This may depend on whereabouts you sit on the train.
Like some trains, there are table seats, where four people can sit round a table. On some journeys, these tables have little board games built in, offering passengers the chance to play Monopoly or Cluedo (although, you will need your own playing pieces). Every train comes with a buffer car, which allows you to buy food and drink for your journey, although it is more expensive than buying in the shop beforehand.
Grand Central is also appealing with tickets. The company charges the same price for tickets whether you buy it on the train, at the ticket office or online. While buying it online makes sure you are guaranteed a seat, you won't be paying extra if you buy your ticket on the day. They will also offer cheaper tickets for journeys made on their trains only rather than any train operator tickets. An example of this is Hartlepool to Sunderland, where tickets cost (as of 2011) £3 single and £4 return if you travel on Grand Central or £5.70 single and £5.90 return if you travel on Northern Rail and/or Grand Central. Another option is travelling between two places on a Grand Central route that would require a change of train otherwise. If you are unable to get a seat on one of their services, then they will only charge half-price for your ticket.
A good thing about Grand Central is that it offers passengers the chance to make a journey without the need of having to change trains. For example, passengers from Sunderland would normally have to change at Newcastle to travel to London or York. Passengers in Hartlepool would also have to go to Newcastle to travel to London/York or travel to Middlesbrough to travel to York. Passengers in Bradford and Calderdale would have to change at Leeds to travel to Doncaster and London.
The downside of Grand Central is they don't offer a frequent service, which is one of the disadvantage of operating open-access rather than as a franchise. Only 3 journeys per day run to/from Bradford and 4 journeys per day to/from Sunderland, which means you're slightly restricted as to when to travel.
Summary: A good alternative to the main operators