Chamber presents letter to Rail Minister in Commons asking for direct trains to London
THE Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce met with Rail Minister Huw Merriman in the House of Commons to appeal for direct train services to London.
The Chamber’s External Affairs Director, David Hooper, presented a letter to the Minister on behalf of the business community asking him to approve plans and funding to reinstate direct rail services between Cleethorpes and Grimsby to London, which would give Northern Lincolnshire businesses direct services to the Capital for the first time in more than 30 years.
The route, which would see a first and last service introduced by LNER, linking into the existing routes running from Lincoln to London, would be at minimal cost in rail terms, yet the economic benefits to the Northern Lincolnshire region could be massive.
Receiving the letter, the Minister promised to consider the Chamber’s plea and said he was aware of the ambitions for Northern Lincolnshire, adding that questions had been again been asked in the Commons recently by local MPs.
This latest development comes after LNER ran test trains along the route in July to ensure the trains could travel on the railway lines without hitting platforms or trackside furniture. Engineers were also checking issues such as disabled access and platform lengths.
During the train’s visit to Cleethorpes, LNER’s Managing Director David Horne told the Chamber that while everything was looking promising from a practical point of view, the Government still had to approve the funding, which at around £1-million per year, in rail industry terms, is negligible.
Hopes were raised that this funding might now be granted following the cancellation of the northern legs of HS2 recently, freeing up around £36-billion to be allocated to other rail services and as business travel recovers following the pandemic, the need for this service is still a priority for the south Humber region.
The Chamber also asked for direct rail services to the region’s hub airport in Manchester to be reinstated following timetable changes which mean those well used regular services were recently discontinued from Hull and Cleethorpes.
The Minister promised to read the letter carefully and see what he could do to bring the plans to fruition.
When the test train rolled in to Cleethorpes in the summer, among those there to welcome it were the Chamber’s Northern Lincolnshire Manager Anne Tate, Adam Fowler, from the City of Hull & Humber Environment Forum and Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers.
The Chamber and MPs have lobbied for the reintroduction of the service for several years after LNER introduced direct services from Lincoln with its new Hitachi 800 trains, suggesting it wouldn’t take much for them to travel the extra few miles up to Grimsby and Cleethorpes.
Following meetings with LNER at their head office in York, the Chamber held meetings with the then Rail Minister Andrew Jones and Northern Lincolnshire business leaders hosted by Phillips 66 to put forward what Mr Jones said was a very strong business case for this service to be included in a future timetable.
It would save many business people driving to Newark or Doncaster to get a direct train to London, which all helps with the current green agenda also.
David Hooper and Adam Fowler also visited the Department for Transport and won its support for the business case for the region.
David said: “It was great to see this LNER train finally pulling into Cleethorpes – it’s been a long journey to get to this point and it would be fantastic for the area if we can see this service included in the May timetable for the first time since 1992. It would also give the area the opportunity to market itself in London and attract visitors to the area from the south and boost our tourism, which all helps the local economy and creates jobs.”
“One of the key obstacles was the commissioning of a Grip 2 Survey which looks at whether the trains will actually fit up the tracks, not hit platforms and go around the bends without hitting any trackside furniture. No-one wanted to pay for it, so I asked the Leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, Cllr Philip Jackson, and NELC’s Chief Executive Rob Walsh at the Chamber’s Northern Lincolnshire Business Awards if they would fund the £25,000 study. They quickly agreed, and that got things to the next level, having demonstrated there were no major platform or trackside issues.
“Many of the biggest Northern Lincolnshire businesses want to see this service introduced, and it was great to see a strong turn-out from the local press and lots of enthusiastic onlookers, who, when they realised what was happening, were quick to add their endorsement to the region’s direct London train ambitions.”