Lumo Spring

Lumo has operated on the East Coast Mainline since 2021. Credit: FirstGroup

FirstGroup lines up London Euston-Manchester Victoria service

Passengers in Rochdale and Eccles could be travelling direct to London on electric trains within three years if the train operator’s application for a new low-fare route is successful.

If approved by the Office of Rail and Road, there would be six return journeys a day from Rochdale to London Euston, calling at Manchester Victoria, Eccles, Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Bank Quay.

Since 2021, FirstGroup has operated its Lumo low-fare services, which have no first class carriages, along the East Coast Mainline between King’s Cross, Newcastle and Edinburgh. The average advance London to Edinburgh fare is £40, with same-day walk-on tickets no more than £88.

Lumo is seeking to expand this model and offer an alternative to Avanti West Coast, also owned by FirstGroup.

FirstGroup said it “has submitted the first phase of an application for a new open access rail service between Rochdale and London to the Office of Rail and Road”. An open-access rail operator takes full commercial risk and is not subject to franchising.

Trains on the new route – reopening a link between Rochdale and London that closed in 2000 – will be electric and battery powered, using new trains built in the UK.

FirstGroup claimed that 1.6m people in the North West would have a “convenient and competitively priced direct rail service to London from stations that are more local to them”.

Graham Sutherland, chief executive of FirstGroup, said: “We have extensive experience of running open access rail operations and we want to bring our successful Lumo service to this new route that connects Rochdale and London. We have seen the level of growth and opportunity that is possible with open access, as well as the positive effect it has on the wider market, including economic and environmental benefits. In addition, the new service will help to drive modal shift from road to rail between the North West and London. We will be working closely with stakeholders as we build our application and our case for this new service.”

There will be a consultation period, as well as discussion with Network Rail to secure the required approvals. It is anticipated that services could begin in 2027.

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This could be an excellent commuter line for Richdale people working in Manchester. It might be a good idea to extend this to Burnley.

By Elephant

Eccles is already been talked about as the ‘next area’ for regeneration/etc – a direct train line to London (and trams to MediaCity) might even convince some of the hordes moving up from London to pick Eccles. Although I’m sure current Eccles residents would have mixed feelings about that, depending on how much of the benefit of regeneration/gentrification is available to current residents and how much is purely captured by developers moving in and then moving on.

By Salfordian

This would be brilliant for Eccles, mainly because it would mean there would be more than one service an hour to the city center.

By Bob

This would be a brilliant alternative to the overpriced Manchester to London offering at the moment.

By Nick

In trying to think of something to moan about regarding this but I’m sure others in the comments will rise to the occasion…”They’re the wrong colour trains”, “they’ll never turn up, “”this won’t last long”, “they’re going to the wrong places ie not where I live…” blah blah blah…😤. There , I’ve saved you the trouble.

By Stevensons Pocket

As a city centre resident much closer to Victoria than Piccadilly, that sounds amazing. Victoria feels underserviced unless you want to get to Leeds or Liverpool

By Anonymous

Could be brilliant for both Rochdale and Eccles and they both need it tbh, although the area around Rochdale Town Hall is looking magnificent these days. A mini game changer this.

By Anonymous

Given how Liverpool’s connectivity has already been strangled by Manchester’s ridiculous insistence on running trains through the ill considered Ordsall chord, there can be no justification for adding new routes which will eat up more sparse capacity.

Any spare should go to restoring broken links and broken promises.

By Jeff

Great news, given the monopoly the current route holds this alternative route will certainly be popular but will they be able to cope with that demand.

By Anonymous

I know this is no replacement for HS2 as this would still run on the same overcrowded West Coast Mainline, but competition is more than welcome, I know many people particularly young people who would travel up/down more often if the prices were affordable.

By Anonymous

I was a fairly regular user of the old direct service in the late 90s. It wasn’t particularly quick, but probably comparable to travelling in to Manchester from Rochdale, changing stations and then using the West Coast Mainline to London. It was substantially cheaper. It was a real shame when it went.

By Nick Barton

But aren’t we being told by Burham et al that there is no capacity on the West Coast Main Line. How can they now add another 6 return services?

By Edge

I know these are hybrid trains, but it builds the case for electrifying Victoria to Rochdale, which would tie perfectly with standing up GM Rail later in the decade (as per Burnham’s manifesto). Bolton-Wigan electrification is costing about £80M right now.

By Rich X

The problem with Lumo is that it’s the Ryanair of train travel. Grumpy staff, cramped seating, poor customer care, no cycle provision, and as someone else has noted, the WCML is very close to capacity already. The pinch points at Euston and Crewe aren’t going to get any easier to manage without investment. That said, any dent in the the cost of Avanti (already 70% owned by First) would surely be welcomed – though not sure why First would want to compete against themselves…

By Stuart

@Edge The WCML will be over-capacity from the 2030s, which is why HS2 should be built now to prevent serious problems in the next decade.

The problem with open access operators is that they suck up any last drop of capacity that Network Rail thinks won’t become exhausted for X number of years.

OAOs also don’t pay towards future investment – just very reasonable track access charges. It will be interesting to see whether the ORR approves this, considering the well known capacity issues.

As for First competing with itself, well it’s probably calculated that if Labour wins the election, they will be stripped of the west coast franchise for abysmal performance pretty quickly.

By Mancunian

This is the type of open access competition that should be encouraged- unfortunately with labour plans to dismantle the market in train travel and replace it with a single provider (government run and owned) this type of service will never get of the ground

By Stuart wood

Competition can only be a good thing for our rail fares but agree with @Stuart we should also be talking about a minimum quality of service. Lumo’s no bikes policy is ridiculous. Everywhere in continental Europe provides for bikes on trains, and yet the UK’s newest shiniest services can’t manage it?

By W

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