Guest column: New rail deal must benefit the whole community

The ageing platform two at Gainsborough Lea Road station is soon to be replaced. Photo: Chris Etchells
The ageing platform two at Gainsborough Lea Road station is soon to be replaced. Photo: Chris Etchells

Rail franchises have recently been in the news.

Regardless of which organisation holds a franchise from the Government, the trains will still run and in our area they will run to the existing timetables.

The first rail franchise was let by the Government back in 1996 and since then, the number of people travelling by rail has doubled.

As train companies are constrained by their franchise agreements it is important that the Government of the day is persuaded to ensure the franchises they give out reflect the needs of the communities served.

Sadly that has not always been the case.

However for the East Midlands franchise, due to be let in 2019, the East Midland Councils prepared an extensive document that sets out requirements which are supported by many organisations, North Notts and Lincs Community rail Partnership included.

Last week, the Transport Secretary announced that four companies are to bid for the East Midlands franchise – Stagecoach, Arriva, Abellio and a partnership between First Group and Trenitalia.

In April, the Department for Transport will issue an invitation to tender to these companies.

It will detail the services required, including the requirement for new and refurbished trains, improvements to stations, information and ticketing and the engineering and manpower required to run the trains.

As a Community Rail Partnership, we will discuss with all four companies the services we requested from the Department for Transport.

Of course, it will be easier if these services are included in the invitation to tender.

In summary we asked the Department for Transport to provide hourly trains from Peterborough, via Lincoln and Gainsborough, to Doncaster and Scunthorpe.

We also requested that the Robin Hood line service between Nottingham and Worksop be extended every two hours to Cleethorpes via Gainsborough Central.

We asked that all these services run seven days a week.

Meanwhile Network Rail are on target to replace platform two at Lea Road station.

The existing platform, on a tight curve, is well past its sell-by date and will be replaced by a new platform south of the present one . Works are expected to be completed by March 2019.

Lincoln station is also receiving improvements, including a microbrewery, which will be complete by the summer.