Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes, Conservative)
Rail franchising has been much in the news over the past week or two, although principally with regard to the west coast main line. Today, however, is the closing date for the Department for Transport’s consultation on the invitation to tender for the east coast main line—an issue of paramount importance to my constituency.
Until 1990, my constituency of Cleethorpes had a direct service to King’s Cross, and four trains went in each direction. Before that, the route ran along the east Lincolnshire line, although that fell foul of the Beeching axe in 1970 after a long struggle.
An open access operator was considering the possibility of providing a service, in which case the line would run from Cleethorpes, through Grimsby and Scunthorpe, and join the main line at Doncaster. I hope that the invitation to tender that goes out from the Department in the coming weeks will include a requirement for a direct service from Cleethorpes and Grimsby to King’s Cross. I imagine that the most likely route would be through Market Rasen and Lincoln, joining the main line at Newark.
The Government have recognised northern Lincolnshire and my constituency as prime areas for economic growth, as the designation of the biggest enterprise zone in the UK shows. There have also been other moves such as the welcome reduction in Humber bridge tolls. The port of Immingham, which would be served by a stop at Habrough, is the largest port in the country by tonnage, and 25% of all rail freight moved within the UK, again measured by tonnage, starts or ends there. There is also potential for a stop at Barnetby, which is currently the stop for Humberside International airport. Since the airport terminal is a mere quarter of a mile from the train line, perhaps there is potential for a new station and the development of connections to London, which would help the development of the regional airport strategy.
Paragraph 5.1 of the document that the Department for Transport has issued states that one key objective of the new services should be to
“support economic growth through provision of train services of appropriate frequency, journey time and capacity.”
The franchisee should also use
“flexibility in the train service requirements to optimise services, delivering a balance of commercial and passenger benefits in line with value for money and affordability criteria”.
Paragraph 9.3 states:
“We intend that the train service specification should provide greater flexibility for the franchisee to respond to demographic and market changes and commercial opportunities than is the case under the current arrangements.”
The Government have indicated their support for potential economic growth in northern Lincolnshire, and those aims and objectives clearly support that. A through train service could provide an additional boost, so I urge Ministers to include it in the Department’s invitation to tender for the east coast franchise.