Sunday 20 March 2022

Different Ways to and from Lincoln

Travelling by train in Lincolnshire getting better but still affected by the pandemic

Coffee and cake at the Great Northern Hotel
Twice recently I have travelled to Lincoln on church business, and each time the timing of my travel has been disrupted to some extent by Cross Country Trains' continued temporary timetable with big gaps in service eastbound in the morning and westbound in the afternoon. Both East Midlands Railway and LNER now operate far better services between Peterborough and Lincoln (as noted in some previous posts), but these are only useful if I can get to Peterborough to catch them, and back from Peterborough after arriving there on my way back. The online journey planners do offer a route via Leicester to fill in the gaps but these take an extra hour as they are such a long was round. It is such a shame that this situation continues, but with some care in making appointments I am nevertheless able to use the train for my visits to Lincoln - anything has to be better than the tedious waste of time that is driving up the A1 and A46.

The first occasion was a midday meeting in uphill Lincoln and on the way there I took the same route as last time, with Advance tickets to Lincoln, LNER, changing at Newark. This time, though, on my return I was meeting my wife and granddaughter in Peterborough City Centre on my way home: they had the car and I was eventually driven home after time with them so the big holes in Cross Country's timetable would not have affected me. I did not wait as last time for the LNER service but took the earlier East Midlands service via Sleaford and Spalding, slower but better timed for the end of my meeting. On the way to Lincoln in the morning I had a little while to wait for my train to Newark, but because I had booked well in advance I had bought a First Class ticket at a decent price for this leg of the journey and was entitled to free tea and cake at the Great Northern Hotel coffee lounge at Peterborough which certainly passed the time nicely! Arriving in Lincoln I had plenty of time to walk up the hill and when I passed through Exchequergate into the cathedral precincts it was really good to see that the last of the hefty scaffolding that has covered the magnificent west front for several years was being taken down. This was the first time I can remember that I could see the whole of this front of the cathedral. So much restoration work has been done over so many years. 

The second occasion was to see someone in the morning and we chose 10:15 because I knew that I could get there then on an easy route, and that provided we were disciplined about the length of our conversation I would be able to get back to Peterborough before Cross Country packed up its westbound service for the afternoon. That went really well and it amazing how quickly time passes on the local train through Lincolnshire when you've tasks to do on your way to a meeting! Before you know it, the train is arriving in Lincoln and it's time to pack the briefcase and get off. This journey is so much more comfortable now that the service has enough coaches for two per train rather than the overcrowded single-car trains that used to operate it. Still no on-board catering, but I bought coffee and croissant at Peterborough to see me through!

Arriving in Lincoln for this visit, I had intended to take a bus up the hill, but Stagecoach East Midlands is also suffering timetable problems because of a shortage of drivers, and so I walked up rather than risk being late because of a longer-than-expected wait for a bus. The transport companies want to get us travelling again, but we can only do it when they are operating their services! In the event it was a lovely day and a pleasure to walk up past the art gallery and up Greestone Stairs to my meeting. I did not this time see the striking frontage of Lincoln Cathedral, but I did note that a film crew had parked its vehicles all around and seemed to be making a feature film of some sort. After my meeting I walked back down the hill and caught a through LNER train back to Peterborough and made my connection home. Had I missed that there was an East Midlands train about twenty minutes after it which would have made the next (and last for three hours!) connection for Stamford at Peterborough - a useful backstop when you don't know how long you'll be. I bought lunch from the on-board buffet on the train and resumed the jobs I'd been doing. It was an early lunch but it fitted in nicely with my day. I was using Standard Class Anytime Return tickets this day in order to allow that flexibility, and this was in any case the most cost-effective option, the meeting having been arranged too late for Advance singles to make a big enough saving.
Travelling home by LNER, Standard Class

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