This weekend's launch of a new direct rail service between Bradford and London will mark the completion of a five-year-journey for train operator Grand Central.

The company, which once used the slogan "The train you’ve been waiting for", first unveiled plans for a new intercity-style link between Bradford Interchange and London Kings Cross as far back as January 2005.

Now the waiting is nearly over as Grand Central makes final preparations for Sunday’s big launch of the 'West Riding' service.

A number of successful test runs have been completed and, today (May 18) the company ran a preview train for invited guests including council representatives, stakeholders and journalists.

Before the train departed from Bradford Interchange, Tom Clift, managing director of Grand Central, said: “We are really looking forward to introducing the service on Sunday.

“It will connect a lot of communities in the West Riding of Yorkshire to London and provide the community with something it doesn’t currently have.”

For Grand Central, the time-consuming process of launching a new service has included a protracted battle to win track access rights from the Office of Rail Regulation and strong opposition from GNER, the former East Coast franchise holder.

Mr Clift said: “It’s been a heck of a lot of hard work in sorting it all out and it’s taken quite a long time to get all the necessary approvals but Sunday’s the day.

“Judging by the support we have had from Bradford and all the other stations that we’re calling at along the line - from the local authorities, stakeholders and ordinary individuals - it will be a considerable benefit.”

The West Riding service will provide three return trips a day between Bradford and the capital, via Halifax, Brighouse, Wakefield and Pontefract.

Earlier this month, Grand Central unveiled plush new offices at Broadway House, Bank Street, in Bradford city centre.

The company’s new train crew depot will provide a base for 36 members of staff, including drivers and conductors.

Over recent years, moves to bring about the new service gathered momentum as Grand Central won the backing of many local MPs, Bradford Council, the city’s business community and Bradford Rail Users’ Group.