Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers has called for the “absolutely appalling” Cleethorpes to Manchester train service to be withdrawn from Trans Pennine Express after complaints of delays.
The comments were made during a House of Commons debate, in which the Cleethorpes MP led calls to the Department of Transport, asking them to consider withdrawing the Cleethorpes to Manchester franchise from rail operators TransPennine Express.
It is a service that has often come under scrutiny for its inconsistent delivery of trains. Scheduled hourly, in recent weeks it has struggled to maintain this level and sometimes there are four hour gaps between trains.
Martin Vickers stated that he would continue to press the provider to meet its service obligations, while also meeting with the rail minister to discuss his proposals for withdrawing the franchise.
Mr Vickers said: “The service should be hourly, but cancellations frequently stretch that to three or four hours. Staff at Grimsby Town station told me of one recent occasion of six hours without a train. That is quite simply not good enough.
“I want to highlight this appalling set of circumstances. I frequently meet the TransPennine Express management, and I recognise the difficulties, but I was told in May that we would be almost back to normal from the start of the summer timetable in mid-May.
“Some months ago, an amended timetable was printed, which I was told would provide certainty; it has done the exact opposite. The situation is unsatisfactory, and I hope that the Department for Transport (DFT) will side with the passengers on this one.”
His sentiments were echoed by fellow Lincolnshire MP Sir Edward Leigh, representing Gainsborough, who mentioned the potential for a reinstatement of the Cleethorpes, Grimsby and London service, after LNER announced plans to bring the route back.
It was withdrawn by British Rail in 1992, but from May 2023 it has been planned by rail provider London North Eastern Railway to bring the service back.
Sir Edward Leigh said he and Mr Vickers had been “campaigning for years” to bring this rail route back into operation, but was disappointed by LNER “unbelievably” suggesting the train doesn’t stop in Market Rasen – a town represented by the Gainsborough MP.
In response to Martin Vickers’ statement in the Commons, Sir Edward said: “This is a really difficult issue. We have been campaigning for years to get a direct service from Grimsby and Cleethorpes, through Market Rasen and Lincoln, and on to London. This is a population of a quarter of a million with no direct service.
“Unbelievably, LNER is now saying that it will provide the train, but it will not stop in my constituency. It is absurd. Apparently, the train is too long. I have been in many trains where an announcement says ‘you have to go to the first four carriages because the platform is a bit short’, but for ridiculous health and safety reasons, LNER is threatening not to stop in my constituency.
“It is an outrage, and I hope the minister is listening and will do something about it for once.”
The Cleethorpes Member of Parliament went on to say that while he does sympathise with TransPennine Express, he must speak up for his constituents’ “appalling” experience with the service.
He continued: “I do recognise, as I said, that TransPennine Express has had difficulties, and it is doing its best to overcome them. My job is to speak up for my constituents, and they are getting an absolutely appalling service.
“If the only solution for DFT is to reconsider whether the franchise should be withdrawn, then that is the action that needs taking.”
An LNER spokesperson commented: “The East Coast Main Line’s significant timetable change, consulted upon in 2021, is required to enable an LNER service between Cleethorpes and London.
“Detailed assessment of this service is underway, including to understand any additional work that would be required to enable to LNER’s long Azuma trains to serve Market Rasen’s short platforms.”