RAIL passengers will benefit from extra seats as York-based train operator Grand Central returns to its pre-COVID service levels in the coming week.

The company launched a third daily return service between Bradford and London Kings Cross on Sunday (September 13), with a fourth return service set to begin on September 20.

The re-introductions will bring Grand Central’s West Riding route back to its pre-lockdown service levels, following a four-month self-imposed period of hibernation at the height of COVID-19 restrictions.

Grand Central managing director, Richard McClean said the return of full service on the West Riding route, as well as the company’s North East route, was a significant milestone.

“The return of these particular services is part of our wider plan to bring Grand Central’s timetable back up to where it was pre-lockdown,” he said. “Our West Riding route reaches several communities in the region which aren’t served by some of the bigger operators.

“In bringing back these services we’re not just providing a link between communities in West Yorkshire and London, we’re doubling our seating capacity on the route, which is vital in enabling social distancing and ensuring customer confidence as more people return to using trains.”

Grand Central took the decision to pause services to reduce outgoings and protect jobs, until lockdown restrictions eased.

Before lockdown Grand Central operated 18 daily services between the north and London (16 on Sundays) and welcomed nearly 30,000 passengers per week. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the operator’s West Riding Route.