Oswestry residents are among millions of people across Britain who will have access to new train services under rail industry plans.

Open access services on seven routes - including the planned Wrexham to London direct service through Gobowen - are being developed in a bid to boost connectivity, increase competition and reduce fares, analysis by the PA news agency found.

But some rail experts have expressed scepticism over the plans, warning they could drive up the overall cost of using the railways.

The vast majority of trains in Britain are run by operators either owned or paid management fees by the UK, Scottish or Welsh governments.

In contrast, open access operators set their own fares, take on all revenue risk and receive no taxpayer-funded subsidies.


Rail minister Huw Merriman told PA that open access services “give more choice to customers”.

He went on: “It’s not just a question of us having rail operators compete with each other.

“There’s an opportunity for rail to take passengers that may otherwise fly or indeed drive.

“Open access is such a positive.

“It doesn’t involve any direct taxpayer subsidies."

York-based prospective open access company Grand Union Trains (GUT) plans to launch services between London Euston and the city of Stirling in central Scotland from June next year.

Mr Yeowart, who founded Grand Central in 1999, said: “It’s not only good for passengers – as whether (the operators) survive depends on how good they are and what their customers think – but there are no handouts from the Government."

Mr Yeowart added that open access provided “services to destinations long forgotten”.

Other current proposals for new open access routes are:

  • Services between London King’s Cross and Sheffield by FirstGroup.
  • Services between London Euston and Wrexham - via Gobowen - by Alstom.
  • Go-Op running services between Taunton and both Weston-super-Mare and Swindon.
  • Lumo extending its London King’s Cross-Edinburgh route to and from Glasgow.

New open access operators competing on the same routes as incumbents typically offer fare reductions of 20-60% in the long-term, according to a report published in summer 2023 by Rail Partners.

But rail engineer Gareth Dennis believes open access services should not be permitted in Britain because it is “incredibly complicated” to fit them in among trains run by operators with Government contracts, and can “actually reduce overall capacity”.

He said: “The argument on the Continent for open access operators is that they provide competition, but there’s no meaningful competition on a rail network that’s as saturated as ours.

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“What you need is a simple, repetitive timetable that moves huge numbers of people.”

Mr Dennis said open access operators often charged lower fares because “they don’t have any of the overheads that the rest of the railway has”.

He went on: “They don’t have to pay for depot space because they get to use depots that exist for other companies.

“They don’t have to pay to train their staff because they can just recruit staff trained by the other operators.

“It’s a false economy really.”

Railway historian Christian Wolmar also expressed concerns.

He said: “It’s only good news if the railways don’t end up costing a lot more because these new operators have made it more difficult for the main operators to run services.

“If they’re adding a few new destinations, can they afford to do that without abstracting revenue from a lot of existing operators and therefore pushing up fares?

“I think they could push up fares for everybody at the cost of providing a few new services.”