May 25, 2022 1.30 pm

Lincolnshire rail users “in peasant class” says councillor

Councillors bemoan poor quality services

Lincolnshire residents are in “cattle class” when it comes to trains, a county councillor has said as plans to improve carbon emissions around transport are explored.

The authority’s Environment and Economy Scrutiny Committee was examining its fifth Local Transport Plan which includes plans to spend thousands of pounds on improving access to the county’s railway stations.

However, councillors were less concerned about access and more about the service which attracted residents to use the trains themselves – or lack of it in this case.

Conservative Councillor Ian Fleetwood said: “If you’ve travelled on the UK rail network in comparison with a lot of Europe, I think the UK are travelling on peasant class, because the quality of the trains in the UK is particularly poor.”

He said there were vast differences between, of instance, the Eurostar with its air suspension, and the East Coast Mainline which he said: “rattles around” and “doesn’t have potentially a toilet or even a by even a canteen type facility’.

“Basically, we are very much in cattle class in comparison,” he said.

He noted the cost of fares for those trains was also “far, far too high”.

“We seem to pay a premium for public transport here,” he said.

Several other members were also aligned with Cllr Fleetwood’s comments.

Councillor Kevin Clark, said he recently got a train to Newark.

“It was absolutely packed, people were stood up, by the time we got to Newark – about four stops along – the same volume of people had tried to get on the train.

“That’s what’s stopping people using trains – the service. It’s absolutely rubbish here. If you go down south though it’s completely different. It’s a wonderful experience using the train,” he said.

Committee chairman Martin Griggs said the service elsewhere was “significantly better and fantastically cheaper.

“I like to take the kids out on days out via train, but sometimes it is just too cost prohibitive. It’s far cheaper to load everyone into the car and drive there directly,” he said.

He also pointed out the lack of options for where to go from some Lincolnshire stations, such as Boston where the main options are Skegness or Nottingham, and the low number of trains meaning long waits for the next service.

Councillor Hilton Spratt criticised a decision to run a single carriage to the Nottingham Christmas Market on a Saturday evening.

Jason Copper, Lincolnshire County Council’s Transport and Growth Manager, said Network Rail were carrying out a major study looking at the Greater Lincolnshire service provision.

He said this included new infrastructure such as new stations around the county and said he had asked them to look at issues where barriers cut some locations in half by being down for long periods.

He also pointed to the creation of the new Great British Rail organisation which will remove the franchise system and replace some responsibilities from the Department for Transport, Network Rail and some operators.

“We are likely to see some very significant changes in the way the rail industry is run and operated moving forward, hopefully for the better because yes, I’m well aware that in some places it couldn’t actually get much worse,” he said.

The fifth Local Transport Plan also includes initiatives to decarbonise the freight industry such as drivers booking loading bays in advance, or the creation of out-of-town delivery centres, according to a report by LCC.

Councillors also discussed how improvements could be made to Electric Vehicle charging provision, buses and bikes, air travel and shortening or changing supply chains to make them more sustainable.