Does Virgin Trains have a platform to extend London service to Cleethorpes?
1st August 2017
Virgin Trains have been approached about extending their expanding London to Lincoln service to North East Lincolnshire – re-establishing a direct link to the Capital for the first time in 25 years.
Conservative MP Martin Vickers met with Virgin Trains managing director David Horne recently to inquire about whether the company would consider continuing one of its forthcoming additional Lincoln trains onto Cleethorpes.
Virgin is set to run five services a day from Kings Cross station to Lincoln from 2019, with six going in the other direction. The city is currently only served by one direct train in each direction every day.
Mr Vickers’ suggestion to Mr Horne was that at least one of the new trains would not terminate at Lincoln, but instead head onto Market Rasen, Habrough, Barnetby and Grimsby, before terminating at the resort.
A spokesman for Virgin Trains said the company was “looking forward to continued discussions” regarding “additional future opportunities” for extending its Lincoln route.
If it can be finalised, it would mean a direct route from the South Bank of the Humber to London being available for the first time since 1992, when British Rail cut the through service.
The Department for Transport and Network Rail, along with the regulator, the Office for Rail and Road, would have to give any extension the green light.
Mr Vickers said: “David Horne admitted that, as a commercial proposition, it probably was not something he would agree to, but if its forced on them by the regulator, then it would be something they would have to consider.
“It would be part of their franchise negotiations.”
Mr Vickers said the next step was to fund a study into the economic boost a direct train service would give the region, in order to provide evidence for the need for such a route.
The Tory MP said he would be writing to the relevant councils, the local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) serving Northern Lincolnshire and the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce about whether they would consider offering financial backing to such a report.
“We had the Buchanan report before the Humber Bridge tolls were halved by the Government,” said Mr Vickers, “and that helped ministers make that decision.
“The initial response from the council leaders I’ve spoken to [about the economic study] has been favourable.
“If we can get that done over the next 6 to 9 months, then we can make another approach to government and the regulator, and get them on board.”
Dr Ian Kelly, chief executive of the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce, said he was fully behind the idea.
He said the chamber would be willing to organise a “parliamentary delegation” of businesses, bringing people like Associated British Ports and Dong Energy to Westminster, to help convince ministers of its worth.
Securing a direct rail line from the South Bank to London is one of the chamber’s top 5 transport priorities.
Dr Kelly said: “With the growing renewables industry and Dong Energy committing more staff to Grimsby and running its operation from the town, it is such an easy win to say, ‘Let’s run one service to London in the morning and one back at night’, just as Hull Trains have done up to Beverley.
“That would be a taster to start with and then it would be up to us to provide the case for anything further.”
North East Lincolnshire Council leader, Councillor Ray Oxby, would not be drawn on whether he would commit to helping fund the economic study but said the local authority would “continue to lobby for the area to build on its quality rail links”.
Both the Humber LEP and the Greater Lincolnshire LEP confirmed they would be willing to join any lobby attempts to secure a direct line.
A spokesperson for the Humber LEP said: “Restoring the direct rail link to London would be a significant boost for the local economy.”
A Virgin Trains spokesperson said: “Lincoln is set to benefit from a greatly enhanced service and we look forward to continued discussions with stakeholders about additional future opportunities.”
North Lincolnshire Council were contacted for comment.
News Courtesy: www.humberbusiness.com