Guest column: Better rail services are urgently needed

The Flying Scotsman at Gainsborough Trent Junction. Picture: Dafydd Whyles
The Flying Scotsman at Gainsborough Trent Junction. Picture: Dafydd Whyles

For the past year, the process leading to a new rail franchise for the East Midlands has been on hold.

Lincolnshire is the last area of England to retain train services that hark back to British Railways time when there were a lot less journeys made by train.

If our corner of England is to thrive we urgently need better rail services.

The Department for Transport was due to open public consultation for the East Midlands in July 2016.

But the Secretary of State for Transport has not yet signalled the go ahead for the consultation.

The delay does give our Community Rail Partnership more time to establish the demand for a direct train service between Gainsborough Central and Retford to Nottingham and daily trains to Cleethorpes to replace the Saturday-only service we have now.

Please complete our online survey at https://tinyurl.com/yb59waws

Northern, who operate the Sheffield to Lincoln service as well as the Saturday-only Brigg line service, invited us to comment on their proposed timetable for May 2018.

This will introduce the Northern Connect semi-fast service between Lincoln and Leeds giving a direct service between Gainsborough Lea Road with Wakefield and Leeds.

Northern also intend to introduce an hourly Sheffield to Retford service with trains standing idle at Retford for 40 minutes.

We have suggested that the trains could serve Gainsborough Central as well as a train not moving is not earning its keep.

Extending this service will generate extra revenue for Northern and finally give Central station a regular hourly service.

Our full response to Northern can be downloaded at http://tinyurl.com/yaggmprb

Meanwhile hope of improved services connecting Lincoln and Retford with London are now on hold.

Stagecoach has warned that its Virgin Trains East Coast franchise no longer expects to provide planned extra services, faster journey times and new routes in 2019.

Network Rail has told the company that infrastructure upgrades to support the new timetable, including Kings Cross remodelling and electrification works, will become the latest rail projects to be deferred.

If major projects such as these are being put back, what hope have we that Network Rail will be able to sort out Lea Road station?

Finally, the world famous Flying Scotsman locomotive passed Gainsborough last month. We hope steam specials will call during Mayflower 400, the anniversary of the Mayflower Pilgrims, some of whom started from Gainsborough.