Hopes grow of gains for Gainsborough

Johnson says the project manager also claimed that the foot crossing at Gainsborough Central would be removed. This was challenged, but NR’s reply, he says, was that “each foot crossing has to be removed”.

Yet this flies in the face of work elsewhere. At Stamford station (managed by East Midlands Trains yet served mainly by CrossCountry), the once-closed foot crossing has been re-opened at the western end of the station. 

Fenced off from the platforms, passengers must first ring the Ketton signaller, who will permit them to cross. When they have crossed the double-track railway, they must then ring the signaller again. It’s a simple system, but one that seemingly works. Seven days a week.

And what’s even more impressive here is that this has been installed on a blind bend, which means the appropriate risk assessments have been carried out. This therefore begs the question: if this system can be installed here, where heavy freight trains also thunder through at speed, why can’t Gainsborough benefit in a similar fashion with only three trains a day on Saturdays?

Johnson suggests that a resignalling scheme in 2017, whereby local signal boxes would be removed from service, would be the perfect time to install the new crossings (he argues this would also actually save money). He says he was told that the crossings have to be removed because people are being knocked over. “I’m trying to be patient,” he sighs.

However, Johnson praises local NR Stakeholder Manager Tim Wright, whom he says has promised a stakeholder meeting at Gainsborough Central. 

No date has been set for this, but up for discussion will be the bridge. NR intends to replace this like for like at a cost of between £350,000 and £450,000, meaning that no ramp access will be installed. 

The removal of the crossing means that passengers will first have to travel west to Retford if they want to head east. Retford is 12 miles away and takes 15 minutes by train. By car it takes anything from 35 to 45 minutes. Johnson estimates that a taxi costs about £30 each way. A single off-peak ticket is £4.70, and yet Northern Rail will be forced to pay six times that because no access will be provided from one platform to the other.

Johnson emphasises the absurdity of the situation by telling RAIL of his experiences on July 11: “There were 17 people who got on at Central, and seven of them had buggies.” 

In the future, when the crossing closes, they must travel to Retford first. That could cost the train operating company as much as £210 if each buggy owner was in a separate taxi. 

A subway exists that has been suggested for possible re-opening, but Johnson argues that the incline rules this out. 

An extra train could help the station, he suggests. “If Northern can get a fourth train, we can get better productivity. There are two DMUs and two crews doing three trips. They can do an extra trip with the same staff and trains.”

Johnson praises Northern Rail Managing Director Alex Hynes: “I like Alex. He has been very proactive, and he says he will have a chat with the Network Rail Route Managing Director.

Hynes spoke to RAIL on July 13. He said: “Having seen the issues at first-hand, it is clear that the line’s potential can only be met through a joined-up approach. Northern will therefore be discussing the matter with NR at the earliest opportunity.”

While Northern’s response is praised, Johnson says that East Midlands Trains (which manages Gainsborough Lea Road) has “not talked to us since the article was published”. He praises EMT station staff at Lincoln for reporting feedback into the command chain at EMT, but says that the Friends have yet to hear from the train operator. 

One obstacle to improved services is the fact that signal boxes on the line are only operated at certain times of the day. This means that passenger trains terminating at Retford cannot run on to Gainsborough Central (as the campaigners want), because signal boxes on the Brigg line are closed. 

The ambition is for a DMU to run to Gainsborough Central, cross over, and return to Retford. Johnson says this would not take any additional time because the DMU is booked to sit at Retford for 45 minutes anyway. However, NR has reportedly told Northern that this would only be possible should the TOC fund a signaller’s wages for the duration of their time working to cover the train. 

Yet elsewhere, Northern has to subsidise the use of a locomotive for Abellio Greater Anglia because of a lack of resources for AGA (owing to a contract with the Department for Transport taking trains away from Anglia for use on the Cumbrian Coast line). 

ORR reports that since April 2014, seven complaints have been received (all from the Friends of the Brigg Line and none from members of the public).

The campaigners were seemingly fighting a losing battle, until RAIL 777 was published. Now Transport Focus Chief Executive Anthony Smith is planning a site visit, ORR Chief Executive Richard Price has agreed to discuss Gainsborough with the Friends of the Brigg & Lincoln Lines, while Northern Rail’s MD is willing to discuss the situation with his Network Rail route counterpart. 

Let’s hope Gainsborough’s luck is about to change. Paul Johnson and the Friends deserve a break! 

  • This feature was published in RAIL 779 on July 22 2015.

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