YORK train operator Grand Central has sought to reassure passengers after new figures revealed it made a loss of almost £8.5 million in the year to March 31.

The deficit came on top of a loss of almost £4.9 million for the three months to March 31, 2010, with the overall shareholders’ deficit growing to almost £35 million by the end of March.

The company, which operates direct services from York to London and also north to Sunderland, said after making losses last year that it aimed to be in profit this year.

A spokesman said yesterday that, while the past year’s results were ‘disappointing,’ the signs so far for this financial year were much more encouraging.

He said passenger revenue, in common with other train operators, had been adversely affected by challenging economic conditions and prolonged adverse winter weather, both of which reduced demand for long-distance rail travel, and there had also been some sizable one-off payments.

He said there had been a major investment in Grand Central’s passenger trains, including the re-engineering of the High Speed Train fleet, which had delivered performance benefits, but an increase of more than 50 per cent in the price of diesel was a concern.

He said passenger revenue was on budget so far this financial year, with average passenger loads up 13 per cent on the North Eastern route compared to the same period last year.

Passenger income last week was 27 per cent greater than for the same week last year and a range of promotions, including Special Fares, Kids Go Free offers and the introduction of Advanced Purchase fares valid for travel from September 1, were already delivering a significant contribution to the business.

“Grand Central’s investors and shareholders remain committed to the business and we continue to develop our plans to expand the range of services we provide and the number of destinations that we serve,” he said.