A PASSIONATE rail enthusiast welcomed a new train into town this week which he believes is the first London service to be timetabled to terminate in Hartlepool.
Retired teacher Vic Branfoot was at Hartlepool Train Station on Monday to welcome the 11.21am Grand Central train, an additional service launched between the town and the capital.
Grand Central bosses said the fifth daily service gives passengers and businesses “more flexibility” to travel south. But due to congestion on the East Coast main line, the new service doesn’t have time to run to Sunderland midweek and instead terminates at Hartlepool.
After welcoming the train into the town station on time at 2.23pm on Monday, Vic, 65, who lives in the Grange Road area of Hartlepool, said: “As far as I know, this is the first time regular London trains have ever been timetabled to terminate at, and start from, Hartlepool.
“There may have been cases in the past where there have been excursions to problems on the line or bad weather, but this is the first time, that I know of, that a London service has been timetabled to start of terminate in Hartlepool.”
Vic, who is one of Grand Central’s 12-strong team of Hartlepool Station Ambassadors who assist passengers when the station is unmanned on Sundays, added: “The 11.21am Grand Central Monday to Friday service from London King’s Cross terminates at Hartlepool rather than at Sunderland as had always been the case since Grand Central started operating a service between the Durham coast and London.”
After arriving on time on Monday, the train stood in the station while there was a change of crew before leaving for London at 2.27pm.
Grand Central bosses said the extra trains were given the go-ahead after successfully demonstrating to the Office of Rail Regulation that the service will have a positive impact on rail users and local communities.
A spokesman said Grand Central will be working closely with Network Rail in the new year to get the new service extended to Sunderland.
Five return trains run through to Sunderland on Saturdays with the first service leaving London slightly earlier at 8.12am.
The Grand Central spokesman added: “The new service will give businesses more opportunities to strengthen their links with the capital, providing more scope for economic growth in the region.
“With convenient travelling times and a journey of just over two hours, the new service will increase accessibility to London for local companies, supporting commercial expansion and development.”