As part of Friday's publication of the Invitation to Tenders (ITT) for the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises, it was announced that Northern Rail's Cleethorpes to Barton service will transfer to the East Midlands franchise when it is relet in 2017, along with most stations on the route and one Class 153 DMU (see ITT
pages 87 and 95). As I explained last year
, I am not in favour of this, and the consultation response document
has done nothing to address my concerns; Below is the relevant extract in relation to the Cleethorpes-Barton service from Page 25:
4.11 In the consultation document, we sought views on the future franchise responsibility for the route from Cleethorpes and Grimsby to Barton-on-Humber. Since the previous ‘remapping' in 2004, this service has been operationally separated from the rest of Northern, making it difficult for the operator to develop the service strategically and for it to handle service disruptions.
4.12 We set out the two different options that would resolve these difficulties. The first option was that the issues would be resolved if the main South Humber service between Sheffield and Cleethorpes was transferred to Northern, as a result of the potential splitting of the existing Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes through service. The second option was to transfer the route from Cleethorpes and Grimsby to Barton-on-Humber to the East Midlands franchise.
4.13 Consultation respondents presented a wide range of views on this issue. Some did not have a strong opinion on who should operate the route, as long as train services were retained. Many agreed with the proposals to transfer the route to the East Midlands franchise, unless the main Sheffield to Cleethorpes service was going to be operated by Northern as a result of the remapping proposal mentioned above. Others suggested the possibility of transferring responsibility of the route to the TPE franchise instead.
As the suggested remapping of the Sheffield to Cleethorpes portion of the Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes route is not going ahead, we will be proceeding with the second option of transferring the route from Cleethorpes and Grimsby to Barton-on-Humber to the East Midlands franchise. The franchise operates other local and regional services in Lincolnshire, and the route appears to fit better in its portfolio than in TPE’s. We expect this to happen when the East Midlands franchise is re-let in 2017.
And from Pages 100-1:
NTSR5: What are your views on retaining the route from Cleethorpes and Grimsby to Barton-on-Humber within the Northern franchise? What evidence do you have to support your views?
There were a variety of responses to this question, including:
- Transfer the route to the East Midlands franchise;
- Both operators should run the line, to provide competition.
Several respondents stated that the service should be run by whoever is operating the adjacent services, taking a ‘no fragmentation’ approach. This would improve reliability, due to operators being more able to replace faulty trains or unavailable staff.
Comments were received from some LAs that supported the proposals to retain the route from Cleethorpes and Grimsby to Barton-on-Humber within the Northern franchise. One LA stressed that there remains a requirement to maintain a reasonable level of connectivity between services to ensure access to wider destinations, regardless of which franchise operates the service; Northern currently provides train crew through other TOCs via inter-operator agreements. It was argued that having services reliant on another operator’s staff may lead to increased unreliability, particularly at times of disruption or other service interruption such as disputes.
As the proposed remapping of the Sheffield to Cleethorpes portion of the Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes route is not going ahead, we will be proceeding with the second option of transferring the route from Cleethorpes and Grimsby to Barton-on-Humber to the East Midlands franchise. The franchise operates other local and regional services in Lincolnshire, and the route appears to fit better in its portfolio. We expect this to happen when the East Midlands franchise is re-let in 2017.
What stands out to me is that despite a wide range of responses being received, and despite some local authorities (I presume North and North East Lincolnshire Council's) wishing to retain the route within the Northern franchise, the Department of Transport (and Rail North?) fail to justify their decision to transfer the route to the East Midlands franchise. They continue to use the "appear to be a better fit in its portfolio" phrase that was used in last year's consultation document that clearly some local authorities and others are not convinced by.
There are a number of questions which I think arise following Friday's announcement:
- Is it intended that the East Midlands franchise will operate the Barton service using Cleethorpes or Lincoln based crew?
- Is it intended to stable a DMU overnight at Cleethorpes for the Barton line, or would stock be required to return to Lincoln overnight?
- Considering that almost all East Midlands franchise services currently terminate at Grimsby Town, not Cleethorpes, how is it intended to swap stock, and if needed crew, between the Barton line and the rest of the East Midlands franchise?
- As only one DMU is to be transferred to the East Midlands franchise, how is it intended to resource the early morning Barton line service that requires a second DMU?
- Is it intended that any timetable alterations will be required to facilitate the transfer from the Northern franchise to the East Midlands franchise?
- What is the future of the 0600 Scunthorpe to Cleethorpes service operated by Northern Rail, which serves Barton line stations between Habrough and Cleethorpes?
- During disruption how is the East Midlands franchise, with it's nearest maintenance depot in Nottingham, any better positioned to respond to service disruption than the Northern franchise?
- What analysis has been conducted to support the belief that the Barton line "appears" to better fit in the portfolio of the East Midlands franchise?
- What relevance is the East Midlands franchise operation of services in Lincolnshire, when the Barton line does not enter the Lincolnshire County Council area?
- How does the transfer support the Barton Cleethorpes Community Rail Partnership, which works with the Yorkshire Coast Community Rail Partnership, whose train operator will remain the Northern Rail franchise?
- Why is a service wholly within the Yorkshire and Humber region, and wholly within the area of two Rail North authorities, being transferred to the East Midlands franchise?
As a final note, if the management of Habrough station is moved from Northern, then this could be an opportunity to add it to the TransPennine Express franchise, and to develop it as a railhead for Immingham and surrounding villages. Such a move would support investment in the Immingham area, such as the Able UK development at Killingholme, and could maybe even take some pressure off car parking at Barnetby.