13 October 2021

Grimsby and Back

Recently I was nominated to collect the LEYTR magazines from the printer and so decided to make the journey by public transport. This was an environmentally sound decision, of course, but rather ignored that fact that it is inhumanly possible to carry the many hundreds of copies by hand! I had to think on my feet and enlist the help of others, but that dear reader, is another story.

Based on the assumption that the very raison d'être of my plan wasn't flawed, I headed out to Grantham railway station where I boarded the 1020 LNER service to York. It was formed of a 9-car all-electric Class 801 Azuma. This was, I think, the first time in years I'd boarded a LNER service devoid of seat reservation; I'd hoped that on the shoulder of the morning peak (if such a thing still exists), I'd not need one and indeed this proved to be the case.

We actually had dwell at at Platform 2 before we departed for the spirited run north. Calling at Newark Northgate and Retford, we didn't attract many additional passengers and I alighted at Plaform 8 in Doncaster at 1103. I'd consigned myself to a 34-minute wait here for the 1137 Cleethorpes train, but while sat in the waiting room listening to my podcast I spotted a TransPennine Express Class 185 arriving at the adjacent Platform 4.

A quick check of Realtime Trains showed this was the 1037 Cleethorpes train running hellishly late, so I bolted out and was able to catch the train by the skin of my teeth. It was formed of just one three-car Class 185 (most now are two set, six-car formations) and annoyingly the universal toilet was locked out of use and the 'space saver' loo had no toilet paper! The guard was unable to remedy the problem and didn't seem willing or able to force the out of use universal loo doors open to acquire some toilet paper for the other toilet. 

There were 9 of us on board as we progressed between Scunthorpe and Barnetby and I had considered staying on board to Cleethorpes and doubling back to the printer's shop, but instead alighted at Grimsby Town and had a slow wander to the Riverhead Exchange bus terminal. 

In early September, akin with much of the wider industry, service reductions have taken place here, with 12-minute frequencies being reduced to a bus every 15 minutes. Services 3 & 4 are two inter-worked services so affected, and I boarded the 1220 departure on Service 3 bound for Cleethorpes Pier. I enquired whether it would be cheaper to purchase two singles or a Dayrider, and was informed that the price was the same, so opted for a £3.60 Grimsby/Cleethorpes Dayrider to save making another transaction on my return journey.

Gone are the days of Grimsby having the cheapest bus fares in the country! £1.80 for a single to Humber Street, one stop beyond Riby Square. In 1991 the fare was 36p. We left with a decent load - although it looked a decent load as we were in a 38-seater Dart, time was of course, this would have been an Alexander ALX400-bodied Trident or Dennis Dominator/East Lancs interspersed with a 45-seater Dennis Lance and pre-1993 a Leyland Fleetline. We are where we are of course, and the service was quick and efficient, the driver polite and informative.

Heading back to the town centre, and having spent considerably longer than I'd intended acquiring the magazines (which involved a number of hurried phone calls to very kind souls who offered assistance), I boarded the first bus to arrive at the opposing bus stop. The next bus information screens are very useful - just as well as timetables were removed from all bus stops in North East Lincolnshire at the start of the pandemic. While I could see when my next bus would arrive, and its number and destination, there was diddly-squat about its route and journey time.

It was a very busy ADL 'Dart' again, which thinned out along Freeman Street. It was pleasing to see people still frequenting this second business district which has, for decades, been a shadow of its former self. Twenty years ago there was a Marks & Spencer here; today the big draw is a Boyes and the still thriving Freeman Street Indoor Market. My mother used to work at a fish and chip shop in Freeman Street, which I spotted was now a 'trendy' coffee shop.

Having left my Service 3 bus at the Bethlehem Street stop adjacent to the railway station, I made a quick dash into the precinct for lunch and then back to the railway station. Such is the way of life now that the toilets on Platform 1 have a combination lock and the code needs to be requested from booking office staff. The station buffet sells local Stokes coffee (which is my father's favourite), so after a quick trip here I headed to Platform 2 for the 1334 Manchester Piccadilly train, formed of two Class 185s. We departed punctually and I left at Doncaster. Getting six cars on Platform 3 behind the mid-platform starting signal is a tight fit.

There were 'residual delays' affecting southbound ECML services so my LNER at 1447 arrived a few minutes late, but again formed of a 9-car Azuma, we were soon away, and the first stop on this particular journey was Grantham, where I alighted in a light monsoon and was thoroughly drenched walking to the car. 

It was a very enjoyable trip, despite my self-inflicted faux pas. I'd like to do it again, when it's LEYTR collection time but it won't physically be possible on my lonesome with so many magazines to collect. My outward trip, thanks to the delayed 1037 Doncaster-Cleethorpes service, meant I undertook Grantham-Grimsby Town in 1:43 - something of a record via this route. Trains were spotless and empty. It is clear to see why government is having to underwrite franchises to the tune of hundreds of millions of points every few months.