Last year we reported that the Scunthorpe to Doncaster (or more accurately Scunthorpe to Thorne Junction) rail line would be closed by Network Rail this summer for an engineering blockade. The line has passenger services provided by Northern Rail and Transpennine Express, the laters as part of the Cleethorpes-Scunthorpe-Doncaster-Sheffield-Manchester Airport service.
The Dates for this have now been announced. The line will shut on June 21st at 11.45 pm and reopen on September 7th at 4am.
It appears that replacement services will provided totally by bus. Obviously the Scunthorpe to Doncaster section has to be served by replacement buses, but what about the Cleethorpes to Scunthorpe section? Through passsengers from Cleethorpes, Grimsby, Habrough and Barnetby may prefer one bus through to Doncaster, rather than a change from train to bus at Scunthorpe, and depending on their destination, back to train again at Doncaster, but local passengers between Cleethorpes and Scunthorpe will have to use a slower bus service.
But passengers from Cleethorpes, Grimsby, Habrough and Barnetby don't have to use buses at all to get to Sheffield. They could always go via Brigg using a line that runs from Barnetby to Gainsborough, then join the Lincoln to Sheffield line to reach South Yorkshire. That option will be available on Saturdays, using the service that operates one day a week (3 journeys each way) on the Brigg line, but it appears that this service will not be enhanced during the blockade. Freight services will be diverted via the line, taking up it's capacity. Though would it be that hard to divert a couple of freight services via Lincoln to allow a limited weekday passenger service to Sheffield?
Finally another potential issue is the effect on the Barton to Cleethorpes service. The first train of the day is operated by a TransPennine Express unit, but during the blockade they will have none at Cleethorpes to operate it with. So bus replacement seems the only option. I will be investigating this further. Also the Northern Rail stock for the line's other services will not be able to position via Scunthorpe. I presume it will have to be attached to the Saturday Sheffield-Cleethorpes service, which has happenned in the past. Better hope it doesn't break down mid-week though!
Clearly there is essential work to be done between Scunthorpe and Thorne Junction, and as far as freight services go, summer is the best time for it to happen (not for the Cleethorpes tourist industry though). But the total use of replacement buses, as appears to be hapenning, is unnecessary and probably motivated by keeping costs low. Operating a Cleethorpes to Scunthorpe shuttle wouldn't be cheap but passengers will be needlessly inconvienced as a result. Just as a limited weekday Cleethorpes to Sheffield service via Brigg wouldn't be cheap, but would ease the effects of the blockade for some passengers. Dont just think about £££'s, remember the customers too.
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