Lumo to launch new London to Rochdale low-cost trains via Manchester

Lumo to launch new London to Rochdale low-cost trains via Manchester

New train services between London Euston and Rochdale via Manchester Victoria could be launched by the low-cost train operator Lumo.

Transport company FirstGroup, which owns the brand, plans to run six returns a day using new UK-built trains powered by electricity and batteries.

Services would also call at Eccles, Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Bank Quay.

The station at Eccles provides connectivity for Salford’s Media City area, while the last time Rochdale had a direct London link via the Manchester city centre station was in 2000.

FirstGroup estimates that the new services, which could begin in 2027, would provide 1.6 million people in the North West with a “convenient and competitively priced direct rail service to London from stations that are more local to them”, helping to stimulate a shift in transport mode from coach and car travel to rail.

The Lumo brand, which currently runs services between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh, was launched in October 2021 on an open-access basis, meaning it receives no taxpayer-funded subsidies and takes on all revenue risk.

Most train operators in England are paid a management fee, with the government holding responsibility for costs and revenue. FirstGroup is the majority owner of Avanti West Coast, the current franchisee for the main line from Euston to Birmingham, Manchester, northwest England and Glasgow.

FirstGroup also runs another open-access operator, Hull Trains.

The company has submitted an application to the Office of Rail and Road seeking permission to launch the London-Rochdale route.

A Lumo train pictured on the East Coast Main Line (PA Archive)

FirstGroup chief executive Graham Sutherland 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.”

This latest application brings the number of proposed new open-access rail routes in Britain to eight.

Ministers are planning measures to encourage further schemes, such as providing more certainty over the duration of the application assessments, reconsidering the required balance of costs between taxpayers and operators, and ensuring all unused track access slots are made available.