East Coast collapse could be northern Lincolnshire’s gain

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 16 May 2018

Direct rail services between London and the Humber's South Bank could once again operate following the collapse of the main East Coast Rail Franchise.  

In 1982, there were four daily direct trains in each direction to Cleethorpes, via Grimsby and Scunthorpee  This was later reduced to one return service and this too was finally scrapped in 1992.  There are currently no direct services between London and northern Lincolnshire.  Instead, passengers have to change trains at either Doncaster or Newark.

"Northern Lincolnshire is a desert on the map when it comes to direct rail services to London," said Adam Fowler, director of the transport charity The City of Hull & Humber Environment Forum.

Speculation is rife in the national press during the last few days that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will shortly terminate the existing franchise holder Virgin East Coast Trains. Virgin Trains, which is 90 per cent owned by Stagecoach and 10 per cent Virgin, earlier announced it is making substantial losses and cannot continue to operate in its current form. The rail firm has the rights to run trains from Scotland, North East, Yorkshire to London until 2023 but just three years in to the franchise it is widely expected Mr Grayling will cancel the agreement after it emerged that revenue predictions were too optimistic.  

Read more: Could a direct rail service to London now be back on track?

There are some suggestions that Virgin will still operate trains up to 2020 on a ‘not for profit’ basis until the franchise is re-let. Until then the government would re-examine the franchise before it is expected train operating companies will be invited to bid to operate the service.

The City of Hull & Humber Environment Forum is calling on the government to include direct services between northern Lincolnshire and London in a rewritten East Coast Franchise.

Mr Fowler said: "The unexpected termination of the current East Coast Franchise provides an opportunity for the government to think again about what places should be served by direct trains to London.  We want northern Lincolnshire to be recognised and become a destination on the rail map!"

Read more: Chamber backs South Bank MP's campaign for direct London rail link

The government is already committed to increasing the number of direct services between Lincoln and London from the current one return to at least six return services from May 2019.  It is these services that the transport charity proposes to extend to Cleethorpes.  rains could call at Market Rasen, Barnetby, Habrough, Grimsby Town before terminating at Cleethorpes. The service would use new trains that are currently being built for the East Coast Franchise that can operate electric between London and Newark then diesel from Lincoln up to Cleethorpes.

"It is significantly more achievable to extend the new Lincoln services north to Cleethorpes than introduce a completely new service.  Enshrining the service within a franchise guarantees that it will operate," he said.

"There are clear economic and social benefits for the people of Grimsby and Cleethorpes – two sizeable locations without a London service. Barnetby is strategically placed to serve North Lincolnshire and Habrough for Immingham the UK’s premier port."

Before troubles with the East Coast Franchise became evident, Grand Central Trains indicated that they would also like to start operating direct trains between northern Lincolnshire and London.  This service would not be ‘open access’ not franchise operated and take a different route via Scunthorpe and Doncaster and is subject to rail regulatory approval.  

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