Date: Saturday 3rd July 2021
The start of July saw me at Peterborough station early on a Saturday morning ready for the 0855 LNER service to Lincoln. An extension of the former Newark Northgate services, LNER has served Lincoln since late 2019 as part of an extension of its network supported by the new Azuma trains. Lincoln is now served every 2 hours during the off-peak with services usually calling at Stevenage, Peterborough, Grantham, Newark Northgate and Lincoln.
Arriving at Peterborough 15 minutes early, I soon discovered that a signal failure at Welwyn Garden City was causing havoc to northbound services, which eventually resulted in my Lincoln train arriving at Peterborough nearly an hour late. Unfortunately, these things can happen on the railway and although frustrating its always best just to grab a coffee and try not to get too annoyed.
Finally, at ten to ten, my train arrived, and I was surprised to discover the service was being operated by a class 800/1, LNER’s 9-car bi-mode trains. Lincoln station has relatively short platforms, meaning LNER services are usually operated by the 5-car 800/2s, something that had actually resulted in a reduction in capacity on these services as far as Newark as they had been operated by 9-car mk4 sets.
Departing Peterborough, we passed through the busy railway corridor north of the city centre where the five mainline tracks pass carriage sidings and a freight yard. Although there was a welcome announcement from the Train Manager, and a member of staff seemed to be attempting to find someone to deliver a sausage cob, my initial impressions were that there was little special about this Lincoln Experience train.
Having followed a local EMR service north, we were soon pulling into Grantham and still nothing much had been said or done to the journey special. However, after our short stop at the Nottinghamshire town, a member of staff came round handing out Myers Bakery’s ‘Famous Lincolnshire Plum Loaf’, and not just samples or slices, full loaves!
In addition to the loaves I also soon heard a clink of a trolley and individual bottles of Lincoln Gin were passed out as we approached Newark North Gate. At the time of writing, neither the plum loaf or the gin have been taste tested by me or my wife (I’m not a fan of gin), however I’m sure both will be delicious and could well be added to the regular shopping list given we’re just a few miles from the Lincolnshire border.
However, as we passed through the local stations between Newark and Lincoln it was clear that the free gin & plum loaf was all passengers that boarded the train at Peterborough or later were going to get. Given the hype that had been built up by LNER about this service with talk of a breakfast menu, goody bags and numerous local foods being handed out, all in all it was rather disappointing and underwhelming.
In need of a coffee, I also tried ordering via LNER’s ‘Lets Eat at Your Seat’ ordering system, however it seems that by this point either the café bar had been closed or at the very least the at-seat delivery wasn’t happening due to the ‘event’ onboard. Thankfully a quick google showed an independent coffee shop opposite Lincoln station, so I knew where my first stop would be after arrival.
As we approached the outskirts of the city, I was reminded of the short platforms at Lincoln by an automated announcement advising us to head three coaches back through the train to be able to alight at Lincoln. Allowing other passengers to pass by first, by the time I reached the exit of the station towards the rear of the train I found a small gathering of passengers waiting near one of the doors of first-class waiting to acquire some of the goodie bags provided. Hanging around for a few minutes, I managed to grab one myself and found it contained another gin, this time Pin Gin as well as some Stokes coffee bags and LNER branded jelly beans and a pen.
Whilst I was very appreciative of the free goodies I did acquire; I was disappointed by how underwhelming the Lincoln Experience was when boarding at an intermediate station. I appreciate that from Peterborough there was only an hour until we arrived, however with the publicity and hype LNER had given to the event I feel more effort could have been made to include passengers that joined later in the journey.
Overall Rating 10/25 (read about my rating system here!)