July 15, 2021 10.50 am This story is over 34 months old

EMR refuses to resurrect Lincoln to Sleaford service, despite school pleas

No solution, yet

East Midlands Railway will not resume services relied on by Sleaford school students, despite mounting pressure from parents and head teachers.

The Lincoln to Sleaford weekday service, arriving in the town at around 8.30am, was a link used by many pupils living between the two locations. But it was scrapped as part of network-wide timetable changes in May.

Its loss has left dozens of young people with no choice but to arrive late to school every day and miss out on hours of valuable learning time.

The changes also led to a raft of last-minute cancellations, and eventually the temporary loss of more than 50 Lincolnshire services.

A story about the cuts on The Lincolnite inspired readers to come forward with their experiences; many highlighting the impact on Sleaford students.

Speaking with two schools alone, Carre’s Grammar School and Kesteven and Sleaford High School, revealed that the journey was used by around 40 students, and that its loss was leaving them with no choice but to arrive late to school every single day.

Head teachers have joined concerned parents to campaign for the return of services, writing to the train company to highlight the impact on students already at a disadvantage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nick Law, RCT Executive Headteacher for Carre’s and Robert Carre Trust said: “The timetable changes are now causing students at Carre’s Grammar School to be late in the morning for school start and also means that they have to leave school early in order to get the train home again.

“Students and parents have written to EMR to express their upset and point out the inconvenience caused, as well as the loss of valuable schooling every day.

“I support their views and am concerned that this adds to the loss of education suffered in the past 18 months because of Covid.

“The recent changes, which are more significant than previous minor amendments, have been done without any consultation with a key and dependent set of users, the school community. Such train services in rural communities are an essential part of community life and 18 students at Carre’s use the affected route get to and from school.”

Josephine Smith, Head of School at KSHS also echoed concerns, sharing its appeal with The Lincolnite: “Several of our students use the Lincoln to Sleaford line every morning and afternoon to travel to and from school […] recent timetable changes seem to have been made perhaps without realising that fact.”

A local parent, who wished not to be named, told The Lincolnite: “Our son arrives so late that he misses the whole of form class most mornings.

“It is appalling that they hide the changes behind national timetable changes and dismiss our issues without a care.

“As for “maintaining or enhancing the journey opportunities” there has been very little sign of this and, in fact, we have had three trains cancelled at the last minute since the return to school from the May half-term.

“I understand that they need to be able to run a profitable service but surely there should be some requirements to providing a public service that allows students to use public transport to get to school on time and reducing the number of cars on the roads.”

The Lincolnite put all parents’ and schools’ complaints to East Midlands Railway, however the company was resolved not to offer a solution.

A East Midlands Railway spokesperson said: “We’ve tried to design our timetable around the best possible balance of frequency and journey times on the intercity route, improved connectivity on our regional routes and connections with other operator services, being as sensitive as possible to maintaining or enhancing the majority of journey opportunities afforded today.

“This is a somewhat complex blend of components across a vast geography where passenger and freight services interact with each other and make use of the available infrastructure and the limits they can impose on our services. This is the case all over the vast network we operate.

“Unfortunately, the new timetable will mean that for some customers, some journey opportunities do not exist in the same way that they did before as trains are retimed.

“In this instance, swapping back to the previous time is, unfortunately, not something we are able to do.”