Saturday 9th April 2022
Located towards the south western tip of Lincolnshire 23 miles south of the county town of Lincoln, 22 miles east of Nottingham, 29 miles north of Peterborough and 31 miles west of Boston, Grantham’s population is around 45,000 so is typical of the mid size towns I’m aiming to visit as part of my fortnightly alphabetical wanderings around Britain.
Grantham doesn’t have much of a hinterland; being surrounded by agricultural rurality. And fairly flat at that.
Aside from being famed as the birthplace of Isaac Newton and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher it’s well known as a market town staging post on the original A1 and, more pertinent to this public transport review, a prominent presence on the East Coast Main Line.
Grantham’s railway station is not exactly imposing, but is quite a substantial affair and has been significantly refurbished in recent years.
It’s managed by LNER with four platforms comprising an island platform (platforms 2 and 4) for northbound departures incorporating a north facing bay (platform 3) used by EMR trains on the Nottingham to Skegness route.
There’s a varied selection of destinations served by train for a town of its size but these do vary from one hour to the next. Between 10:00 and 11:00 for example two departures will whisk you to Kings Cross (with Hull trains at 10:00 and LNER at 10:19), as well as Norwich, Liverpool, Nottingham and Skegness (with EMR), Hull (with Hull Trains) and Harrogate (including Leeds) and York (with LNER).
The following hour has a slightly different pattern including a Lincoln instead of a York (LNER) and no Hull Trains. Between 12:00 and 12:18 there are three trains to Kings Cross then nothing until the next departures at 13:08 and 13:18, so not particularly evenly spaced.
There’s an understandable gripe from Granthamonians about missing out on trains to further afield destinations such as Newcastle and Edinburgh as Scottish bound trains race through the station but you can’t have everything on a congested railway where long distance passengers want speed and uninterrupted journeys devoid of market town stops.
Two gripes of my own I noticed on my visit on Tuesday was LNER still insisting on stopping their five coach Azuma trains right at the far end of the platform thereby inconveniencing passengers especially on a wet day with the train ending up far beyond the covered waiting area as illustrated below. If you’re in coach A its a long walk from covered protection under the canopy to your seat.
And secondly it’s annoying to see the bus stop (albeit with a fairly limited service) has moved further away from the station entrance in the recent revamp.
Instead the space closer to the station has been allocated for “premium parking”.
Another example of LNER’s disinterest in modal integration. Imagine if you’re a passenger who finds walking a bit challenging arriving on a bus from say Barkston on the bus route in from Lincoln and catching a five coach LNER train to Harrogate from platform 2 and you’re seated in the accessible coach A at the front. LNER have made you walk unnecessarily for almost half a mile with these annoyances.
Still at least there were timetables posted at the bus stop, and up to date ones too.
Only two bus routes call at the railway station. Stagecoach’s hourly route 1 from Lincoln calls by on its way into Grantham (but not on the return journey) and Vectare’s 90 minutely route 93 calls in both directions.
The railway station is only a three or four minute leisurely walk from the bus station (through a rather nice alleyway by former railway worker terraced houses ) which in turn is adjacent to the town’s commercial centre including the Isaac Newton Shopping Centre comtaining a large Morrisons.
I’ve commented on Grantham’s bus station before. It’s not in its prime but it’s 11 bays, each with a small shelter, are functional and plenty big enough for today’s operations.
The main bus operator in the town is Centrebus which operates Grantham’s three town bus routes and a selection of inter-urban and rural routes. As well as the already mentioned Stagecoach and Vectare (which operate the two routes already highlighted – 1 and 93) there’s Lincolnshire’s long standing DRT style service called Call Connect.
Centrebus is what I’d describe as a sound functional bus company. There’s not a lot of razzamatazz sparkle but there is what comes over as a dependable well presented bus network which looks to be well in tune with the local market operated by clean, brightly painted well driven buses.
Clear departure bay signage is provided by Centrebus in the bus station (which I’m sure have been added since my last visit) together with clearly conveyed departure times at each stand.
A simple network map is on display as is a list of stand allocations.
Also displayed is a similar (but differently presented) map and a couple of traditionally laid out timetables which I suspect have been put up (some time ago) by Lincolnshire County Council. They seemed somewhat superfluous.
I took a ride on the three town routes which all operate to a circular pattern at the outer ends. Two of the routes are numbered 1 but timetables show them as separate routes even though many buses operate across the town linking the two routes into one.
I didn’t see any passengers travelling through and sometimes the bus terminated in the bus station – especially around lunch time when drivers changed over and double decks appeared on the route/s.
It’s convenient for passengers travelling from Earlsfield (west) who want the north end of High Street to stay on the bus if it runs through to Alma Park (east).
These route 1 portions run half hourly whereas route 3 to Barrowby Gate (west) runs hourly. You can see why when you travel on the routes with housing density much lower on the latter reflecting the small numbers travelling – two out and three back on the 12:45 rounder whereas the route 1s I travelled on and observed during my visit had 6-8 on each journey. Some journeys even more.
As already mentioned there’s yet another route 1 in town and that’s the hourly Stagecoach route to Lincoln. I’ve taken a ride on this previously – it’s a nice run but nothing spectacular. Numbers travelling were in the high single figures at best.
It used to be branded as part of Lincolnshire’s InterConnect brand but these days it seems to be the case that anything goes with at least two of the workings I saw having Pronto branded vehicles on Tuesday.
Vectare route 93 to Bingham doesn’t serve the bus station which is a bit anomalous for passengers; albeit there aren’t many – I saw two on the 12:30 departure. I wrote a review of this route and others operated by Vectare in the wider East Midlands area back in September 2020.
Centrebus also runs hourly to Bottesford (route 6), Melton Mowbray and Loughborough (route 8) and Great Gonerby (route 14) and less frequently to Newark, Sleaford, South Witham and Aslackby.
The departures I saw on all these routes carried what one might call average loadings for current times.
Information provision at bus stops around the town seems to be a County Council responsibility. Aside from traditional timetables posted by Vectare the only message was a rather unhelpful one advising “bus times are not posted at this stop as services can be subjected to frequent changes due to Covid-19”. I’m not sure that encourages passengers to Bus Back Better.
And it’s not much better online with Lincolnshire being one of the counties that favours the Cartogold “inter-active bus map” which basically is a zoomable map of the county showing the location of every bus stop ….
…. which in turn are each clickable to show the route of the bus route/s stopping there including highlighting the route concerned.
There’s also a bus route listing in number order which is also clickable and will show up on the map.
It’s clever but completely useless for someone wanting a helpful network map of the area. At least there was one (actually two) for Grantham on display in the bus station as highlighted earlier and in a twist to more usual experiences neither seemed available online on either Centrebus or Lincolnshire County Council’s websites, unless I have missed the links.
Centrebus does have a helpful website which displays a map clearly showing where each route goes as well as bus times and fares.
There’s also a bus tracker section which is excellent.
And there’s plenty of information about ticket options including the TANGO – whereby two adults travelling together save 15% on return fares and take two children free at weekends and school holidays which is a great idea.
Lincolnshire’s countywide CallConnect service covers the wider Grantham area but is specifically not available for ‘within town’ journeys, other than for those with mobility impairments.
Just to confuse things the buses in the Grantham area also use a route 1, albeit a 1G, presumably the G being for Grantham.
I took a ride on the three-journeys-a-day fixed route 4 (with on-demand route variations as required – the ideal way to run DRT) to Stamford a couple of years ago and wrote about it here.
Grantham’s town centre traffic can be a nightmare on busy weekends but was behaving itself on Tuesday and all the buses I saw were operating well to time. All in all it was a decent operation for a decent town.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS.