Lincoln MP Karl McCartney and North Hykeham MP Stephen Phillips have pushed for improvements to the Lincoln-Newark line in Parliament.
During a debate on the matter on January 27, both MPs pressed the transport minister Stephen Hammond MP to do something to improve services along the route.
They argued services from Lincoln to Nottingham through Newark are far below the standard of other routes in terms of frequency, speed and capacity, and MPs from Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire have banded together to push the Department for Transport to act.
Karl McCartney said: “When I was lucky enough to have the honour and privilege of being elected Member of Parliament for Lincoln, I inherited the only city in the country that was unfortunate enough not to have a quick, fast, direct route to London. That has been improved, but we have only one service to London a day, and none at weekends.
“Lincoln and Nottingham are designated housing growth points — an additional 60,000 houses are planned over the next 20 years, 18,800 of them in Lincoln. The University of Lincoln is one of the UK’s fastest-growing universities, with a 40% increase in students planned for the next 10 years.
“A science park of around 1 million square feet is being developed for spin-off and related industries. Those are all reasons why we would like an increased, better train service from Lincoln, Newark and Nottingham.”
“In 1912, fast Lincoln-Nottingham trains took 45 minutes; now they take around 50 minutes because of speed limits, and many trains take more than an hour because of extra stops. The service frequency is specified by the Department for Transport, as is the stopping pattern that results in so few non-stop trains. The speed limits are imposed by Network Rail because of the characteristics of the infrastructure, and East Midlands Trains is obliged to obey those speed limits,” Karl McCartney said.
During his response to the debate, transport minister Stephen Hammond MP said that he had not seen a business case from local bodies.
Stephen Hammond said: “So far the Department has received no comment from either Nottinghamshire County Council or Lincolnshire County Council. We have not seen a business case for the proposed investments and improvements.
“However, we have made it clear to both Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire and the LEPs that we are willing to provide guidance and strategic advice.
“Neither of the two strategic enterprise partnerships has indicated that the scheme is a priority, and without support from those bodies, I regret to say that it is unlikely that much progress can be made in achieving the objective of improved services that Members have talked about this evening.”
Stephen Stephen Phillips then said: “It seems to follow from that that if this is merely oversight on the part of the two county councils and the relevant LEPs and that is rectified, this is a project that the DFT will treat as a priority and that this funding will be forthcoming. Is that right?”
The transport minister replied: “He has heard me say several times in my remarks that we have encouraged the county councils, the LEPs and the strategic economic partnerships on a number of occasions to make the case.
“The Department has offered advice and guidance on how they might formulate that case, but it has not been forthcoming. Therefore, to say that this is oversight might be quite a big presumption.
“However, were it to be an oversight, or even at this late stage, if those authorities chose to decide that this is now a strategic priority for them, the Department will consider their applications.”
Commenting afterwards, the Lincoln MP said: “I hope that the County Councils and LEPs will now take action; the Department has offered guidance, and the opportunity simply must be taken to put forward our case. Lincoln is a thriving city, but rail upgrades are needed if we are to continue to move forward in the future.”