Date: Saturday 3rd July 2021
After an enjoyable but frustrating day exploring Lincoln and the surrounding area, I arrived back at Lincoln station not by train, but by bus due to EMR and Northern cancelling subsequent services back from Gainsborough Lea Road. Despite my concerns about missing my train home, the bus actually got me back earlier than either of the train services and so I was on the platform waiting when my LNER train arrived from Lincoln’s Terrace sidings.
Direct trains to London have only made a return to Lincoln relatively recently, and a regular service has been introduced even more recently than that. East Coast began a daily return service in 2011 which provided a southbound service in the morning, with a return in the evening. The regular(ish) two-hourly service began in 2018 and sees six return services each day, with the previous Newark North Gate services having been extended to the cathedral city.
What made the extension of these services possible was the introduction of LNER’s new bi-mode Azuma trains, which operate as electric trains to Newark and then on diesel power for the last stretch. Whilst LNER (and its predecessors) previously ran a HST on the once daily Lincoln service, there were not sufficient HST sets to run a regular service, whilst the electric class 91s could not run off of the East Coast Mainline.
Usually LNER operate five-car class 800/2s on the Lincoln service and so I was surprised that both my northbound journey on the Lincoln Experience train (read about that here) and my journey home were operated by nine-car class 800/1s. Whilst an increase in capacity is a good thing, it certainly wasn’t needed as the Train Manager announced that just 9 people had had reserved seats on what was now a service without reservations in place. The only other issue with a nine-car train at Lincoln is the distinct lack of platform length which results in the last four carriages overhanging and passengers having to walk through the train to reach them.
With first-class being at the front end of the train, I was saved a walk through and was soon settled into a very empty coach L. Greeted by the first-class host just after departure, I was told I was the only first-class passenger on the train, and I soon had a large selection of food and drink delivered to my seat. LNER were one of the first operators to bring back onboard catering and have found new, innovative ways of providing a service such as the ‘Lets Eat at Your Seat’ online ordering system.
This was my first journey with LNER in a while where I had experienced the catering and two things stood out to me. Firstly, the options have been rotated, meaning I enjoyed a nice Ham Salad sandwich as opposed to my usual Chicken Mayonnaise sandwich, which whilst delicious was getting a bit boring. Secondly, alcohol is back on board with LNER having ended its ‘dry train’ policy of the pandemic, allowing me to enjoy one of their ‘Hop on Board’ ales during the journey.
Stops at Newark and Grantham didn’t change the tranquillity of first-class and I’ve got to say that the host was possibly the best I’ve ever experience on any train operator, providing an attentive and friendly service and regularly checking if I needed anything, even as I prepared to alight at Peterborough. I’m aware I’m someone who moans quite a bit on twitter, so I made sure to provide positive feedback to LNER about my experience on this train, especially the service provided by the first-class host.
The journey south to Peterborough took just under an hour, which is slightly shorter than the journey with EMR via Sleaford and much nicer, especially in first. I’ve now visited Lincoln via both routes and LNER seems to make the whole journey feel easier and I’m certainly up for visiting Lincoln again by train in the future.
Overall Rating 18/25 (read about my rating system here!)