Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart has held an urgent meeting with the Managing Director of Hull Trains, Louise Cheeseman, to get an update on the train operator’s situation as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Hull Trains have suspended their operations since 30th March following the Government’s guidance that services should be for essential travel only, leading to an increase in the number of people working from home.
As an ‘Open Access Operator’, Hull Trains’ sole revenue comes from their ticket sales as opposed to franchised operators which operate under contract from the Government. They are one of only two such train operators in the country, along with Grand Central – operating out of Bradford and Sunderland – which suspended its operations shortly after Hull Trains on 3rd April.
Such operators were designed to introduce greater competition to franchised operators – reducing prices for customers – so long as they secured approval that their introduction would not hinder other services from the Office of Rail & Road.
As a result, Hull Trains have been left out of the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ move to allow the Government to cover the risks and costs of franchised operators in order to ensure that services are maintained for key workers and others who are unable to work from home.
Speaking after the meeting, Graham said: “The Government has put in place a wide package of unprecedented support for businesses to take advantage of, including Hull Trains. For example, they have been able to furlough the vast majority of their staff, helping them to cope with their third-biggest rolling cost.
“I’ve also been pushing with Ministers to improve the Government-backed loan schemes that have been introduced through dozens of accredited lenders. Ministers have responded on several occasions – increasing the interest-free period on all loans and introducing the Bounce Back Loan Scheme that’s easier to access.
“But I will be working to see what more can be done to support Hull Trains as a local business which brings tourism and connections to my constituency through its direct services to London from Beverley and Hull. I know from having to travel to London myself to answer parliamentary questions recently, that having to drive or get the train to Doncaster to get down to the capital just isn’t really feasible for people in Beverley and Holderness.”
Ms Cheeseman added, “I’m really grateful for the ongoing support we have received from MPs, councillors and businesses in the region who are focussed on getting Hull Trains up and running again as soon as possible.
“I’m local myself, so I know how important it is for Hull and the East Riding to keep these connections and build on the progress that Hull Trains has made over the past two decades.
“I hope that Graham’s able to make some headway with the Government in highlighting the opportunities that open access can offer in connecting the people of The East Riding and Hull with the East Coast Main Line stations and the capital.”