Thursday, 18 June 2009

Grimsby and Cleethorpes Rail Services Westminster Hall Debate

Yesterday I posted about very late comments made my Shona McIssac MP (Cleethorpes) about the Scunthorpe-Doncaster rail blockade. The full text of the comments, and response from Chris Mole MP, under-secretary of state for transport, have been published on the Hansard website, Column 133WH onwards. They were made in a Westminster Hall debate. Having read the transcript there are a few points I wish to raise.

Cleethorpes-Scunthorpe rail services

Shona McIssac MP "Also, I have had no explanation of why there will be no train service between Scunthorpe, and Grimsby and Cleethorpes. These are the two biggest urban areas in northern Lincolnshire. I understand that no repair work is going on along that part of the line, so why can some sort of service not continue to link those two areas? Even at this late stage, I hope that that can be considered."
Response to this point from Chris Mole MP "TransPennine Express considered a shuttle service, but unfortunately it is not practical, as the rolling stock would be trapped and unable to return to its Manchester depot for the necessary regular central servicing and safety checks."

As I have posted before I agree there should be a shuttle between Cleethorpes and Scunthorpe, but it is far too late to arrange it now Shona. Just got to accept it will not happen now. But as for it being not practical, I disagree - Northern Rail are 'trapping' their stock for most of the week to operate the Barton Line Service. Cleethorpes has a fuelling point so a weekly or twice weekly empty coaching stock move would be all that would be needed. Not that hard? Or even better rotate it via a limited service along the Brigg line ...

Use of the Brigg Line for a replacement passenger service

Shona McIssac MP "I had hoped that it would be possible to retain a link with the east coast main line, perhaps using the Brigg and Gainsborough line, on to which all the freight traffic is being routed ... I appreciate that it is vital to keep that freight going, but originally I was told that some sort of passenger service may be retained on the line so that people could link in to the east coast main line if they have to go to London. However, I have now been told that there will not be any replacement passenger service on that line."
Response from Chris Mole MP " On the question of alternative routes, there is little opportunity to accommodate additional passenger trains on the alternative route via Brigg, as most of the spare capacity on that route will be taken by freight trains. That option was explored fully by TransPennine, but it was not possible to hire additional drivers from freight operating companies who had knowledge of the alternative route. Also, running via Brigg would take the trains to Sheffield but omit a call at Doncaster, which would affect passengers making journeys on that busy section of the network."

So there is some, limited capacity, on the Brigg Line for passenger services - and surely a little bit more could be created by moving a couple of extra freight services onto the Lincoln route? While driver training is hardly cheap, I don't see why Transpennine Express could not train a small number of their own drivers for the Brigg route - never know when it might come in useful after this summer. And as for the point about Doncaster - I think you have just got to accept it is a bus for Doncaster - but why remove all services, needlessly to Sheffield. Cross Country connection can still be made there, and East Coast Main Line connections en-route at Retford. Bizarre Comment to make.

On the driver issue, Shona McIssac MP replied with the following "On the drivers, my understanding is that TransPennine would not pay the rate, not that drivers were not available". Chris Mole MP said he would investigate. I hope this is not true as would really give the inidication that the replacement services are being done on the cheap.

General Comments

Shona McIssac MP makes some good points, but this all far too late, and even if it took time to secure the Westminster Hall debate, why not go public earlier? (and if you have done you can't have done it very loudly).

Chris Mole MP also made some very good justifcation of the timing of the blockade and hopefully he will be an effective member of the transport team.

Other Comments

Shona McIssac MP made some other points, not related to the summer blockade.
"Moreover, the new trains that have been in use on the trans-Pennine route are about to be withdrawn and replaced with 10-year-old rolling stock, which does not bode well for the future."

This must be refering to the rumours that TransPennine Express will replace Class 185's with Class 170's on some Cleethorpes services. Though to be honest I think the biggest issue with that is capacity between Sheffield and Manchester. For most of the time, east of Doncaster, I think a Class 170 would suffice, and there are demand for the Class 185's elsewhere. Shame if it happens though.

"Turning now to the frequency of the service, the nearest station to the port of Immingham is Habrough, yet that station has a very poor service, with few stopping trains. If we are to develop the port area, it makes more sense to increase the frequency of the trains serving the port of Immingham by having more stopping at Habrough station. I am always told that people should use Barnetby station. However, it is not the most successful station because it involves using bridges; Habrough does not. Therefore, we must consider having more trains stopping at Habrough if we are to serve the port."

Agree totally with that. Barnetby is great for many places, but not ideal for Immingham. And guess what station one of the main routes from Immingham to Barnetby goes past ... Habrough.

"The other service we must consider is the one to Humberside airport. At the moment, the line goes just past the airport—there is no station at the actual airport. If we are to have an integrated transport network serving this growing industrial area, we need to consider having a rail service into the airport."

Rail service into the airport - cloud cuckoo land. And yes I do run the Air Humberside website. But the airport could never support a dedicated rail station. A dedicated mini bus link to Barnetby is far more realistic.

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