Hull Trains has taken the decision in what it calls ‘unprecedented circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic’ to temporarily suspend all train services from 00.01 on March 30 to safeguard the future of the business.
Passengers with tickets for Hull Trains services will be able to travel on alternative train services on the same date and route specified on the ticket. Arrangements have been made to make sure that tickets will be accepted by other train operators.
Despite running a revised timetable, the number of people travelling had dropped significantly since national guidance was issued for people to stay at home and stop all non-essential travel.
As an open access operator, revenues from ticket sales are vital for Hull Trains and its business model means it must survive purely as a commercial operation. As one of three open access operators in the country, it has not been offered additional financial support from the government, which franchised rail operators have.
Louise Cheeseman, managing director of Hull Trains said that suspending services was a difficult decision but it would help to safeguard the future of the business.
“We have explored every avenue to try and keep trains running but sadly it is not currently financially viable to run our services. We play a vital role in the regional economy, as recognized by our local MPs, and wwe fully intend to resume operations as soon as we can,” she explained.
“It’s been a very difficult week for the business but the reluctant decision to temporarily suspend services is the right one based on the current unprecedented circumstances and I hope our passengers understand this. The move protects the long-term future of Hull Trains and our people’s jobs which is important as it will allow us to reinstate operations quickly when possible.
“We will continue to review the dynamic situation as it unfolds and we plan to return as a resilient train operator for the city of Hull and East Riding as soon as we can.”
Steve Montgomery, managing director of the rail division for FirstGroup plc said: “We are very sorry to all Hull Trains passengers that we will be suspending services. In line with the entire rail industry, passenger volumes at Hull Trains have reduced substantially since mid-March and even with the steps we have taken to reduce the timetable we’re operating, current passenger numbers make it impossible to maintain the ongoing level of losses we have seen.
“We have sought agreement to be included in the government emergency measures but, as an open access rail operator, this has not been afforded to us. Hull Trains brings much needed connectivity to the local area providing a direct, frequent link to London that supports the local economy.
“Our commitment to Hull Trains and the entire East Yorkshire and Humber community is as strong as ever, as evidenced by our recent introduction of a £60m fleet of new trains and we look forward to re-starting the service as soon as we can.”
Louise added: “All the information about this temporary measure, what this means for customers, refunds and signposting to alternative services is available on our website. I look forward to seeing many of our customers back on board our trains when we are back up and running.”
A feature about Hull Trains and its history after 20 years as an open access operator appears in the April issue of The Railway Magazine, out on April 1. The interview with Hull Trains MD Louise Cheeseman was undertaken before the suspension decision was made.