Additional direct rail services promised from Lincoln to London in 2019 are potentially under threat if more operators are allowed to use the East Coast Main Line, leading Lincolnshire politicians have warned.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the independent safety and economic regulator for Britain’s railways, is set to make a decision shortly on whether to approve new applications from operators applying to use the East Coast Main Line.
Four competing applications are being assessed by the ORR to use the limited capacity on the main line.
These are from Virgin Trains East Coast (the DfT franchisee), FirstGroup, and two applications from Alliance Rail Holdings.
Three of these applications include proposals for long distance high speed trains between London and Edinburgh and all four would require capacity at the very busy southern end of the route.
The proposals have been met with fury by Lincolnshire county councillor Richard Davies and Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, who have claimed that the applicants would “jeopardise” the direct services between the city and the capital.
Councillor Davies said: “It has been made clear to the council that should these applications be granted, then the proposals for new and improved services to a number of stations on the East Coast Main Line including Lincoln will not be achievable.
The importance which the county council and its partners places on these new services in terms of the economic future of Lincoln and the county cannot be over-emphasised.
Karl McCartney added: “Hand-in-glove with the county council and others, I have worked extremely hard to secure improved rail services between Lincoln and London because they are vital to the long-term success of our city and county.
“If the Office of Rail and Road grant these new applications, they will be holding back the city and county for many years to come and I have told them so in correspondence and face to face meetings.”
A spokesperson for the Office of Rail and Road said: “ORR is currently assessing four competing applications for new train services on the East Coast Main Line.
We are looking at the benefits new services will bring to passengers, the impact on public funds, and whether they make best use of the limited capacity on the route.
“On March 4, we held an evidence gathering session, where train operators and other stakeholders provided evidence to help inform our analysis.
“We expect to make decisions on the applications later this year.”