Bid to create direct train route between Cleethorpes and London rejected

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 12 May 2016

RAIL regulators have rejected an application to create a new direct link between London and Cleethorpes.

The route was chopped in the 1990s butan application was made by Great North Eastern Railway Company (GNER) to the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) to re-establish it more than two years ago.

The application was for a joint new franchise serving both North East Lincolnshire and West Yorkshire.

The ORR said that, while it would have approved a Cleethorpes-only line, more trains to West Yorkshire could end up costing the Government "several hundred million of pounds".

GNER's submission was for four return trains a day between London and Cleethorpes, travelling via Doncaster, and also seven daily returns from London to Bradford and Ilkley using new Hitachi bi-mode trains.

It would have also seen a new train station built serving East Leeds.

The new routes - especially the section serving Cleethorpes, Grimsby and Scunthorpes - would generate a profit, but the ORR declared that the West Yorkshire routes would create instability for the franchises serving that part of the country.

Cleethorpes passengers will have to wait longer yet to see a direct link to London established

"These financial impacts would have been reduced had the application focused on serving, say, just the Cleethorpes line," wrote the ORR in its final judgment letter.

"This line has no direct services to London at the moment and we have previously approved applications whose main impact is to provide such new direct services.

READ MORE:MP queries two year delay on direct Cleethorpes rail link decision

"However, GNER told us this was not commercially viable on its own.

"It told us a 6 trains a day service to West Yorkshire could be viable, but in our view this would still result in unacceptably high levels of abstraction (profit loss to franchise holder Virgin)."

Virgin's franchise contract has a clause which means 80 per cent of its costs would fall to the Department for Transport if the contract begins to lose money, which the ORR said could cost the Transport Secretary "several hundred million pounds".

Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers reacted to the news saying he "regretted" the decision but said he was already in talks over securing a Plan B."I regret the decision, although it was expected," admitted the Conservative MP.

Martin Vickers MP is 'in talks' over new Cleethorpes train link

"The ORR made clear that had the Cleethorpes service been stand-alone, it may well have been approved but it was linked to an extension of services to West Yorkshire.

"Its main reason for rejection is to maintain Virgin's market share and the Treasury income from Virgin."

Mr Vickers did have hope for those campaigning for a direct serving to the South Bank of the Humber.

"I've already had a meeting with Virgin about extending their Lincoln services to Cleethorpes and will have further discussions soon," he added.

The ORR gave the go-ahead to bids from Virgin Trains East Coast and FirstGroup for new train services to Middlesbrough, York, Newcastle, Morpeth, Lincoln, Leeds, Bradford, Harrogate and Stevenage.

John Larkinson, ORR's director of railway markets and economics, said: "We thank all the applicants, Network Rail and other participants for their thorough input and engagement throughout this process.

"Our decision has been informed by extensive analysis, formal industry hearings and detailed engagement with all parties.

"We have carefully weighed up the potential passenger benefits and the financial impacts on existing operators and the government, as we are required to do by law."

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