Operator: Hull Trains Headcode: 1H01 Route: GRA-HUL Class: First Seat: E22 Date: Friday 10th January 2020
A cold and clear morning in January saw us up early and on our way to Grantham to catch a train. Although not our local station, most direct services to our final destination, Hull, don’t call at Peterborough and so we had driven one stop north to catch our train. For our journey today we were travelling with the home operator of East Riding, Hull Trains.
Hull Trains are an open access operator (they don’t operate a franchise but have permission to operate specific services) that provide 7 services a day between Hull and London King’s Cross. All services stop at Grantham, Retford, Doncaster, Selby, Howden and Brough between the two termini and two services a day in each direction are extended to serve Cottingham and Beverley.
We were catching the first northbound service of the day, although this unfortunately had been delayed at King’s Cross and on its trip north, resulting in us having an extra half hour to wait at Grantham. Whilst on the whole the waiting room on the island platform at Grantham is fairly standard, it did have some extremely interesting stained glass windows showing Mallard and Grantham’s famous son, Isaac Newton.
Our service was being operated by one of Hull Trains’ new class 802 ‘Paragons’, 802203, and was the first passenger service for this specific train. Hull Trains are extremely proud of the Paragons, as is shown by the naming of the fleet, with Paragon meaning ‘a model of excellence’ whilst also showing their links to Hull and its Paragon station.
Departing Grantham 33 minutes late, the improved acceleration of the class 802s was obvious as we were soon speeding north. Shortly after departure, the on-board crew came through first-class with the drinks trolley and taking order for Breakfast. The hot drinks offered were the standard choice of tea and coffee with hot chocolate also being available (much to Beth’s joy). There was also juice and soft drinks available, whilst alcoholic drinks can be purchased once the ‘rest of the day’ menu is in operation.
Before we had passed through Newark Northgate breakfast had been served and both of us had opted for the sausage ciabatta, which despite being pre-packaged and reheated, were extremely delicious. Whilst we had opted for sausage ciabattas, there had also been the choice of a Bacon Roll, Pastry, Fruit Salad or Porridge.
Just over 20 minutes after departing Grantham, we were pulling into our next stop, Retford. A settlement has existed in the area since the Mesolithic period and the Nottinghamshire market town now is home to over 20,000 inhabitants. The Bassetlaw area that Retford has an extremely varied geology and habitat with 19 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 290 local wildlife sites and 30 areas of ancient woodland. Retford is also a conservation area and home to a large number of listed buildings, whilst the local cemetery is a nature reserve.
After Retford the next stop was the major railway town of Doncaster where branches split from the East Coast Mainline towards Leeds, Knottingley and Selby, with our route destined to take the latter. Our next stop, Selby, historically had a large shipbuilding industry due to its location on the Selby Canal and the tidal River Ouse. Tragically Selby is also known for being the nearest major town to the location of the Great Heck rail crash, the worst UK rail disaster of the 21st century in which 10 people died.
Due to our late running, our arrival into Selby was delayed as we waited for a local train to pass over the nearby junction ahead of us and upon our departure we ran about 35 minutes late for the remainder of our journey to Hull. Our final two stops, Howden and Brough have a combined population of just over 11,000, with both having existed for over 1000 years. Howden Manor was gifted by King Edgar to his first wife in 959AD, whilst Brough was previously known as Petuaria, the capital of the Celtic tribe Parisi during the Roman period.
Our arrival into Hull marked the end of my first journey with Hull Trains and overall, I was fairly impressed. The new Paragon trains were smooth, comfortable and fast and the biggest let down was the punctuality of the service, partly caused by the fact it was this specific train’s maiden passenger service. Hopefully Hull Trains will go from strength to strength with it’s new fleet and will continue to improve its offering to passengers.
Lounge 0* Seat/Facilities 4* Food 3* Service 5* Punctuality 2* Overall Rating 14/25 (read about my rating system here!)