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27.06.14

Proposals to terminate TPE services to Lincolnshire under fire

Proposals to potentially terminate direct TransPennine Express (TPE) services from northern Lincolnshire to Manchester Airport have come under criticism, and branded “completely wrong” by one MP.

As part of the DfT’s stakeholder consultation on the TPE Rail Franchise and Northern Rail Franchise, to consider how best to use £1bn of investment across the network, it has been suggested that the South Humberside services are under-used and should be reshaped.

The consultation document says: “Stations between Doncaster and Cleethorpes currently have an hourly TPE service from Manchester Airport. Passenger loadings are relatively high between Manchester Airport and Doncaster but low between Doncaster and Cleethorpes. The majority of passengers from Cleethorpes, Grimsby and Scunthorpe are travelling only as far as Sheffield or connecting at Doncaster or Sheffield for onward services, rather than travelling over the Pennines.

“We are therefore examining the option, subject to operational constraints, of terminating the TPE service from Manchester at Doncaster with a replacement Sheffield-Cleethorpes service being operated by Northern, possibly as an extension of the existing hourly Northern Sheffield-Scunthorpe service. A wider package of changes could also feature the transfer of one of Northern's two services between Doncaster and Hull in each hour to TPE, allowing a through TPE service to Hull via the South TransPennine route (i.e. via Sheffield).”

Speaking to the Scunthorpe Telegraph, which alongside its sister publication has launched a major campaign to get the public behind the local businesses in derailing the plan, Labour’s Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin said: “I welcome and fully endorse this campaign.

“Any reduction in rail services would be completely wrong. A lot of constituents have contacted me with their concerns and I have already raised the issue in the House of Commons on their behalf.”

Cllr Chris Shaw, leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, has also stated that maintaining the TPE service is vital for the area's “tourism and investment future”.

The current First TransPennine Express franchise is due to finish on April 1, 2015, but the operator is in the early stages of discussions to continue running the franchise until February 2016, after which, new franchises are due to commence.

The DfT had previously considered merging the TPE and Northern franchises under the devolution proposals, but has since ruled that out. Speaking to RTM at Rail Live last week, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin MP said: “I had advice on what should happen there, and the advice that I received was that actually they were fairly separate entities and I was advised that was the best way to move forward, [keeping them] as separate entities. Both of them are going through some fairly major changes, with the electrification we’re seeing, the Northern Hub and lots of opportunities. It was thought that perhaps we don’t necessarily need to keep going bigger and bigger.”

A TPE spokesperson said: “The DfT has indicated that it values two separate rail franchises for the north of England and has acknowledged the customer improvements made and inter-city services provided by FTPE in the last 10 years of operation. Specifications for franchises after February 2016 are expected to be released by the summer and are expected to include details of the services intended to be operated for consultation.”

Andrew Percy, Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole, however, stated that there are no firm proposals to end services “as yet” and the recent document issued is only a discussion document ahead of the final proposals for the new tender for these services.

The stakeholder consultation ends on 18 August.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

(Image: Alvey & Towers)

Comments

Nonsuchmike   27/06/2014 at 13:16

Ah! Now I am beginning to understand what the this Lib-Con trick of a Government is doing to those upon whom it can exercise financial constraints. Yes, let them take one step forward, but then insist upon all parties taking two steps backwards. Direct services to Airports are vital to the regions as we in the south served by Gatwick direct, Stansted direct and Heathrow direct can testify. There are of course feeder services, too, and to lose these will be a severe blow to the east midlands and lincolnshire in particular.

Ken Cropley   27/06/2014 at 20:18

Is this proposal tied in with the transfer of TPE's Class 170/3 units to Chiltern? I believe that these sometimes work to Cleethorpes.6E Has TPE discovered that when it loses these trains it wil not have enough Class 185 units to run the thru to Cleethorpes hence the need to cut the service back to Doncaster TPE has introduced an extra hourly service over the Pennines presumably using units released from their Scottish services which are now worked by EMU's. When are the North going to more trains, preferably new to replace the dreadful Pacers

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