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Powerhouse minister supports South Bank direct train bid to capital

THE Prime Minister’s man in the North says he would support a direct train link between the capital and Cleethorpes – as long as there is evidence to back up the move.

Powerhouse minister supports South Bank direct train bid to capital

A headwind grew across the summer after resort MP Martin Vickers announced he had met with the head of Virgin Trains, David Horne, to propose the rail provider extends one of its extra Lincoln to London services – with five new timetabled trains to the capital due to commence in 2019 – to serve North East Lincolnshire.

The idea could involve an early London-bound train starting in Cleethorpes in the morning, and a return service continuing to the South Bank of the Humber in the evening, also taking in Grimsby.

As reported, Jake Berry, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, visited Grimsby and Cleethorpes on Monday to learn about plans for the town and the seafront resort’s improvements.

The minister, who succeeded Brigg MP Andrew Percy after he stood down from the role in June, said he would support better rail connections in the region, as long as there was evidence to back up the “feasibility” of any changes.

Mr Berry said: “There would have to be a lot of evidence and feasibility in this, like whether the tracks need to be widened or what have you.

“It will be for the Department for Transport (DfT) to liaise with Virgin Trains over whether their franchise obligations fit with such a plan.

“In principle, if we could overcome those complicated negotiations with DfT, then Martin (Vickers) has a very good idea.”

Asked whether he would support the proposals personally, Mr Berry added: “Ultimately, it is a decision for the DfT to make.

“But the principle of better connecting areas across the North, and specifically North East Lincolnshire – and not just to the capital city but also to each other – then that is something I absolutely support.”

Mr Berry found out the hard way that road travel in North East Lincolnshire is not always the most reliable mode of transport. He was stuck in traffic on the A180 before his visit, having been caught up in delays caused by a tragic collision in which one man died.

Mr Vickers spent the early summer period rallying businesses and interest groups together in order to find the cash for a study into the economic benefits a direct London train line could bring to the region. He confirmed he would be continuing to lobby now that Parliament had returned.

The former Scartho councillor has already had conversations with North East Lincolnshire Council and has the backing of the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce and the region’s two Local Enterprise Partnerships, the Humber and Greater Lincolnshire.

Mr Vickers said: “Now we are back in Westminster, I can follow-up on those meetings that I had in June and July, and try to encourage and get the support we need to provide and fund a proper report into effects on the local economy.

“We will be trying to develop this over the coming weeks and months and get the funding agreed. We obviously need to put it out to tender and get the right consultants on board, but there are plenty of people out there with the right skills for this.”

Mr Berry had a tour of Grimsby Docks while visiting and also met with the Greater Grimsby Project board, who took him through their wide-scale plans for regenerating the town.

Mr Berry praised the “premier league star players” that “local boy” David Ross had managed to pull together for the council-backed plans to rejuvenate the town’s waterfronts, recently-acquired Victoria Mills, and town centre around Alexandra Dock.

The Lancashire MP said the town could be “really proud” that respected names such as ex-chancellor Lord Norman Lamont, and Lord Bob Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, were behind the scheme.

A meeting is scheduled between Grimsby MP Melanie Onn, Mr Vickers and a delegation from the project board to talk again with Mr Berry in Westminster next week.

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