MPs working on plan to bring back direct London rail link from Cleethorpes
TWENTY years after the last direct train left Cleethorpes heading for London, North East Lincolnshire's two MPs are working on a business case to bring it back.
The town's Westminster representatives are uniting to establish a need for the connection – which would dramatically enhance the attractiveness of inward development on the South Bank.
It is a twin-track approach, as discussions are being held within the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership with regard to rail strategy, with the local authority pushing for it to be included in the City Deal request to Government in the new year.
Working with Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce – successful a decade ago in bringing a direct link to Hull, a city which now has seven daily trains – a survey has been launched, with the support of Grimsby & Scunthorpe Media Group.
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In a joint statement, Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers and Grimsby's Austin Mitchell said: "We're working to get the direct train service from Cleethorpes to London restored.
"British Rail ran such a service, but in 1992 this was taken off. British Rail claimed that it was unprofitable. Assuming that business from North East Lincolnshire would have increased in the way it has on all other services to London, our view is that a direct service would now be profitable.
"We certainly need one to encourage development and make the area more attractive to incoming businesses.
"We suggest that the Chamber, local businesses and North East Lincolnshire Council help develop that case by providing the evidence that there is a need and will be sufficient customers for one or two trains each day, overnighting in Cleethorpes.
"We need to put this case as soon as possible to show that the service will be both sustainable and profitable. We are sure it will be, but have to prove it."
There are two options and both are being pursued at present. The first would be an open access model such as that used by Hull Trains.
As previously reported, there is operator interest from Grand Central, or Alliance Rail as it was known, subject to carrying a study of the market and Government approval. It is understood a service – picking up between Cleethorpes and Doncaster before a non-stop journey to King's Cross, could be in place by 2014.
A second option would involve provision in the new East Coast contract for an extension of the Lincoln service, via Market Rasen. This would, however, miss out Scunthorpe – and further demand potential.
The MPs have met with Rail Minister Simon Burns, who was said to accept there was a strong case.
This month also marks the 50th year since the last steam passenger train, with diesel engines introduced on the line.
'We are very keen to prove the business case'
A return of the 6.28am from Cleethorpes to King’s Cross would be a second rail success for the campaigning Chamber.
Grimsby-born chief executive Dr Ian Kelly was part of the original team that secured the connection that is now the frequent Hull Trains service on the North Bank.
He said: “To maximise the economic potential of the renewables industry and the fact that we have the biggest port complex in the UK in Grimsby and Immingham, and all that brings with it, we want to again be looking at a direct rail link.
“Alan Johnson (Hull West and Hessle MP) and the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce ran the campaign a decade ago which got Hull Trains. There were ‘nay sayers’ who thought that there wasn’t enough demand from Hull and we proved that wrong, and now have seven journeys a day. It is an important part of growth and expansion in Hull in recent years.
“It was said that Hull could only have a train first thing in the morning and last thing at night, but didn’t we prove them wrong.”
And business contributing to the cause was vital according to Dr Kelly, pictured.
“We are very keen to prove the business case. That was the clinching point according to the Strategic Rail Authority a decade ago. We are working again on the same basis with Austin and Martin to see if we can provide the same evidence base. I very much encourage businesses to get involved. The re-establishment of such a service could be transformational.”
The local authority is currently in discussions with other councils within the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership to draw up a list of requirements for rail infrastructure, and the direct link is also part of that.
A working party is continuing to formulate the submission, due to be sent to Westminster in the new year.
Freight handling upgrades will also be part of a package of measures submitted, as previously reported.
Companies looking to contribute to the business case for the Cleethorpes to London direct link should complete the survey online, by visiting http://ow.ly/fBBM5