Another loss for rail firm

A RAIL firm has announced a second consecutive year of annual losses.

Grand Central, which runs Hartlepool’s direct rail route to London, made a loss of £8.4m in the 12 months up to March 31 this year.

It comes on the back of a £8.4m loss which was recorded at the same time last year.

But bosses at the company believe better times are on the way and have put the results down to dreadful winter weather as well as “challenging economic conditions”.

The latest accounts show that turnover in the last year grew from £11.5m to £18.9m, but a number of the firm’s costs increased include the wage bill for the 125 staff which rose from £2.5m to £3.9m.

Its bill for leasing the rolling stock increased from £3.9m to £5.2m.

A spokesman said: “Whilst Grand Central’s results for the last financial year are disappointing, the signs so far for this financial year are much more encouraging.

“During the period April 1, 2010, to March 31, 2011, Grand Central’s passenger revenue, in common with other train operators, was adversely affected by the challenging economic conditions in the latter part of the financial year and the earlier prolonged adverse winter weather conditions, both of which led to a reduction in demand for long distance rail travel.

“Last year also saw major investment in our passenger trains, including the re-engineering of our High Speed Train fleet which has delivered performance benefits. The price of fuel, however, continues to be a concern as diesel prices have risen by over 50 per cent since this time last year.”

Despite the increasing costs, bosses say the future looks brighter.

The spokesman added: “So far this financial year, our passenger revenue is on budget.”

He said passenger levels for its North East England route including Hartlepool was up 13 per cent on last year.

Grand Central said its income from passengers was 27 per cent greater last week than for the same week last year.