Plans for the future of rail services in the East Midlands have been revealed by the Department for Transport (DfT) - with welcome improvements for passengers using services in the Sleaford, Market Rasen and Skegness areas.
The DfT has today (Thursday) published its invitation to tender for the East Midlands Rail franchise, which sets out the baseline requirements that must be met by the three shortlisted bidders, Abellio, Arriva Rail and Stagecoach.
Coun Richard Davies, Executive Member for Highways and Transport, said: “We’ve been lobbying hard for better rail services for Lincolnshire, and today’s announcement shows that those efforts are bearing real fruit.
“There is a lot of good news for the county, and it looks like the new franchise will introduce a lot of the improvements we’ve been calling for.
“There will be an hourly service from Lincoln to Grimsby, which will help alleviate some of the overcrowding currently experienced at Market Rasen.
“There are also improvements planned for services between Lincoln and Peterborough, which will be of particular benefit for not only Sleaford and Spalding, but also the smaller stations on that route, such as Metheringham and Ruskington.
“It is a shame that there is nothing specific on Sunday services south of Lincoln through to Peterborough, but this is something we intend to take up with the bidders.
“Another welcome addition is the recognition that the franchise needs to do more for Skegness during the busy summer season and around major events, such as the Lincoln Christmas Market.
He added that Lincoln to Doncaster services, which also serve Gainsborough and Saxilby, will become hourly, as Doncaster offers a range of good connections across the north of the country.
In addition, there is a requirement for the franchise to time the two-hourly Lincoln-Newark North Gate services in between the proposed direct two-hourly Lincoln-London services. That will effectively provide an hourly Lincoln-London service.”
Coun Davies added: “We would have liked to have seen a greater commitment to improvements to the rolling stock, which is again something we’ll be stressing to the bidders.
“There has been good growth in rail use across the county in recent years, and it’s important that rail services adapt to meet that increasing demand. Today’s announcement appears to be a step in the right direction.”
But Coun Davies was unsurprised at no extra services being outlined for the Boston area. He said: “Unlike many parts of the county, Boston already has a service that runs every hour roughly, with some 16 trains a day in each direction. So it’s perhaps no surprise that there appears to be no major changes included in the DfT’s proposals. However, we will be looking at everything in detail over the coming weeks, and will make sure that Boston isn’t forgotten in our discussions with the bidders.”
The new franchise is expected to come into effect in late 2019.
The current franchise is operated by East Midlands Trains a company owned by Stagecoach Group.
For further details on the invitation to tender for the East Midlands Rail franchise, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/east-midlands-franchise-2018-invitation-to-tender .