EXCLUSIVE: Lincoln to London rail service could be saved by another train operator
DIRECT train services between Lincoln and London could be saved – if a new train operator throws its hat into the ring.
As reported in the Echo, East Coast will save £9 million a year by running just one daily return service to and from King's Cross from May next year, instead of the seven originally planned.
Most passengers from Lincoln will have to travel to Newark to catch onward trains.
Passengers can currently use East Midlands Trains' much slower direct service to St Pancras, which takes two hours and 50 minutes, departing Lincoln at 7.08am and leaving London at 6.30pm.
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Now, it has emerged that Grand Central is interested in taking on the direct Lincoln to London services abandoned by East Coast.
Managing director Tom Clift made the revelation at a recent meeting of Railfuture Yorkshire.
Grand Central runs the Sunderland to Kings Cross and West Riding to London services as open access services.
This is when the operator receives no taxpayer support and operates services at its own commercial risk.
It would run the Lincoln to London services in the same way.
Grand Central spokeman Rupert Brennan Brown said the company would be looking at using the paths, or slots in the timetable, that East Coast is vacating.
"As I understand it, East Coast is proposing one train in the morning and one train in the evening between Lincoln and London and four return services from London to Newark," he said.
"It is Grand Central's contention that this is not the best use of these paths and that it may be possible to serve other places by extending the trains beyond Newark.
"At the moment, we are trying to get clarity as to what the final proposed timetable is.
"There was a suggestion it would cost £9 million to run the services that have now been scaled down. We are trying to find out what opportunities there might be for us as an open access operator, which is not supported by the taxpayer."
Network Rail spokesman Rachel Lowe said timetabling decisions would be needed before a company could operate.
She said: "Various train operators, whether they be franchises or open access, will be putting bids in for paths.
"If full agreement about timetabling, given the restraints of the network, cannot be made locally, the Office of Rail Regulation will have the final say on who gets to run what services."