Frequently asked Questions

What is ‘Open Access’?

Open Access passenger train operators are those who operate services purely on a commercial basis, i.e. not under either a franchise or a concession agreement. These are companies who identify an opportunity to run a service which is not currently being provided, and they apply to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) for the necessary track access rights and to Network Rail for train paths in the timetable. An Open Access operator must offer a service that provides national and network benefits,  is generally not otherwise available and does not only duplicate routes already served by the network.

What is the process of applying for routes? How long from inception to completion?

Firstly create a business case that would enable a commercial return. This is then further analysed to see how much of the expected revenue would be ‘new to rail’. This information would then give some guidance as to the likelihood of the application being acceptable to the ORR. At the same time discussions will be held with Network Rail (NR) to try and identify the capacity required, the type of rolling stock to be used etc. NR may then support an application to the ORR (Section 18), or not (section 17).

Once the application is made to the ORR it could take up to 12 months for  a decision to be made. The timescales would vary depending on the complexity of the application and whether there were any competing applications for the same track capacity.

What trains and formations would Alliance be looking to use on the proposed routes?

On the WCML and ECML routes Alliance would look to use trains that can operate at maximum line speed, with 6 passenger carriages. A mixture of First and Standard class seating would be provided. On the Pennine route 4 passenger carriages would be required.

Why are some stations listed as Parkways on the network map?

A keystone of Alliance’s application will be the development of parkway stations, where the company is set to make significant investment. The application lists stations at Thorne South (close to the M18), Guide Bridge (M60), Eccles (M602 and Manchester Metrolink), Newton-le-Willows (M6/ M62), Winsford (A556) and King’s Langley (M25). Alliance plans not only to provide a proper car park, but also improve facilities in the shape of ticket offices, waiting rooms and real-time train information as required.

This investment would be available to other train operators at that station. The term Parkway has been shown to be well understood by the travelling public, identifying a station that is likely to be more car friendly.