The Beginning of the end for the Robin Hood Line, or a new less frequent era?

robbeech

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*It's diagram and timetable related i would say but feel free to move if you think it's better suited elsewhere*

With recent announcements that Whitwell (my home station) and Langwith (2 stations south) is to change to a 1 train per 2 hour service from hourly on the line from next month, i wonder if this will be the start of bigger reductions on the grossly unprofitable line. Having opened again before the turn of the century it never really makes any money from stations north of Mansfield Woodhouse and i believe at least used to be subsidised by local authority. After attempting a Sunday service on the northern half of the line a few years ago with almost zero interest (after locals went out of their way to complain about it) it has sat at an hourly service with an extra at peak time Monday to Saturday only for some time.

Whilst the official word is skipping these stops is due to low passenger numbers and to help reliability, there has been talk on and off for years about them being little more than a hindrance and suggesting they'd be better off closed.

Passenger numbers are VERY low, although i can't help thinking that the current reduced numbers are exaggerated by the removal of the evening services forcing people back into their cars, and as we are seeing in many places, people are seeing the light so to speak and realising that, particularly if you went as a typical group of 4, it is cheaper to drive and use the park and ride in Nottingham, and unless you use Hucknall or Phoenix Park at the end of the tram lines, it's almost as quick.
A cynic would suggest that, as they would prefer Whitwell and Langwith, and likely Newstead although that has operational advantages, to be closed, that reducing the service should reduce the numbers just low enough for them to consider closure.

Interestingly, they claim that passenger usage data is very accurate, though i'm not entirely sure how they can show any useful data with passenger numbers based on the last 6 months, given you couldn't leave Nottingham later than 1800 for 3 of them, barely acceptable for a commute with a city transfer by tram. Showing the number of tickets from Whitwell is all well and good, but it gives no indication of what time people want to travel, and as such there is no way of knowing what passengers require, and with no (local) advances and no seat reservations (at any time) most people buy at the machine or on board so there's no real information for timing data. Particularly for return journeys.

The most ridiculous part of course is the timings. It seems they've made no effort to slot in the timings at 1tp2h with anything else around. A frequent (not at the moment) journey of mine and several others in the village is a London trip, either for a day, or usually a few days. This is generally for work purposes, and i usually get a super off peak return. I normally go via Worksop and Retford as that is the quickest journey time despite being an extra change.
The trains that call at Whitwell are the oposite ones to those that connect with the retford trains that connect with the London or York trains.
Whitwell to London via the ECML is now 5 (five) hours thanks to the 1hr50 wait at Worksop, and 1hr5 wait at Retford.

The trains are either missing out Langwith or Whitwell, but it appears they do the other one on the way back. Should there be an easement in place to allow a double back? I actually do Langwith to Whitwell or the other way around a fair bit as the garage where my vehicles are serviced is in Langwith so it's an ideal service, expecting passengers to travel 4 minutes 1 stop, wait an hour and then 4 minutes one stop shows a complete lack of care and consideration for passengers. I'm only 1 passenger so cannot expect the railway to revolve around myself or any of the other small number of people making that journey but frankly the whole thing hasn't been thought about as far as i can see and it's disappointing that an operator that i've generally considered passenger friendly has taken this step**




**NOT the reduction in services. I actually fully appreciate that passenger numbers are low, and whilst i'd prefer a 2tph service i know it can't be justified, and perhaps neither can 1tph, but the idea that local journeys can't be made anymore, and that journeys travelling via Retford (my usual complaint for low frequency services) are offset making a 2h15 journey into a 4hr58 one, making it utterly impractical to use the station. This WILL reduce passenger numbers further which will give them the excuse to close it.

I'd consider if they used the OPPOSITE train in the 2hr span to call at Whitwell (and Langwith) and the current one to call at Neither, this problem would be almost solved allowing long distance journeys to remain and having no difference on the shorter journeys.
 
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joenffc

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Yes potentially. Your post doesn't mention the bus they've put into place to replace the stops? Whoever it's operated by could give you a bit more of a clue.
 

robbeech

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Well, they seemed to suggest that that isn't happening now which is part of the issue. If it does, then it is essentially solved (all be it a bit of a faff but better than the alternative)
 

robbeech

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Yes. And the timetable (pdf) shows the bus but CS says that it isn’t going ahead (at least initially) and that this is a contingency Incase it causes problems. Of course they could be talking drivel.
 

yorksrob

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Yes, the withdrawal of evening services seems to be a sinister development in various areas. Makes a line immediately unviable for anything other than commuting. And 2-hourly services aren't really suitable for local journeys.
 

MichaelAMW

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The morning and evening service to Worksop, including Whitwell, will return to normal in September. In my view, if a bit of time is needed to be saved - presumably the problem is that the skip stopping of Bulwell and Newstead can't happen with the Mansfields mostly not running - Langwith should be rush hour only and Whitwell retain its service once per hour off peak. As far as I know, neither station is busy but Langwith is rarely used off peak at all.
 

ChrisC

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Passenger numbers on the Robin Hood Line are not helped at the moment by poor onward connections. With Northern not running the Sheffield to Gainsborough Central service the train from Nottingham arrives in Worksop just a few minutes after the trains to both Sheffield and Lincoln have departed. After a 20 year wait for better connections at Worksop Coronavirus has put an end to that very quickly. Hopefully only temporarily.

I have given up on doing a rail journey from Mansfield to Leeds at the moment with Northern not running through to Leeds from both Lincoln and Nottingham the journey was going to take 3 hours. If the connection was missed at Sheffield it could even be 4 hours and that’s without considering the current difficulties of travelling with XC. Travelling anywhere to the north from Robin Hood Line stations is not easy with poor connections both at Worksop and at Nottingham.
 

robbeech

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Passenger numbers on the Robin Hood Line are not helped at the moment by poor onward connections. With Northern not running the Sheffield to Gainsborough Central service the train from Nottingham arrives in Worksop just a few minutes after the trains to both Sheffield and Lincoln have departed. After a 20 year wait for better connections at Worksop Coronavirus has put an end to that very quickly. Hopefully only temporarily.

I have given up on doing a rail journey from Mansfield to Leeds at the moment with Northern not running through to Leeds from both Lincoln and Nottingham the journey was going to take 3 hours. If the connection was missed at Sheffield it could even be 4 hours and that’s without considering the current difficulties of travelling with XC. Travelling anywhere to the north from Robin Hood Line stations is not easy with poor connections both at Worksop and at Nottingham.
Mansfield to Leeds would likely be better with a 53 bus to Sheffield and a train from Sheffield to Leeds.
Certainly Mansfield to Sheffield is generally quicker on the bus, and half the price.
 

tbtc

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I'm always a bit confused by the Robin Hood line.

If it hadn't been re-opened then Mansfield to Nottingham is the kind of line I'd support - there's a post-industrial town to connect to a relatively prosperous city in commuting distance, so there seems clear demand for everyday travel - there's a frequent bus service from Mansfield to Nottingham (Stagecoach having recently invested in new buses for the "Pronto").

Connections to the north could certainly be better - maybe the connections at Nottingham for London could be better - Mansfield will always have longer journey times to most places than Retford does - but plenty of provincial lines cope with local demand without requiring huge numbers of long distance passengers each day - if the line was built on the assumption of large numbers of people travelling from Mansfield/ Shirebrook to London then that seems a touch naive to me (e.g. Ebbw Vale seems busy enough without needing a direct Paddington service).

What went wrong?
 

ChrisC

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Mansfield to Leeds would likely be better with a 53 bus to Sheffield and a train from Sheffield to Leeds.
Certainly Mansfield to Sheffield is generally quicker on the bus, and half the price.
Mansfield to Sheffield was only just over an hour by train during that short time when Northern were running 2tph between Worksop and Sheffield. It’s also not badly priced with a via Worksop ticket and even more so using a railcard.
Mansfield to Leeds is also not too badly priced if you split the fare at Sheffield. That also was not a bad journey before Northern stopped running through services from both Lincoln and a Nottingham to Leeds.
Hopefully all of this is only temporary and Northern will soon restore their semi fast through services via Barnsley and the 2tph between Worksop and Sheffield.

The 53 bus is a terrible service with only half a dozen through buses a day and it takes 1 hour and 35 minutes even with good traffic conditions. Until train services improve again the car and the M1 will win even if I park on the outskirts of Leeds and get a bus into the centre.
 

Bevan Price

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Might it be more useful if the service ran through to Sheffield (via Worksop with reversal - or even omitting Worksop and using the south/west curve near Shireoaks )??
 

robbeech

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What if anything is happening about reopening to Ollerton and Edwinstowe?
I would assume any chance of that is delayed for the time being, I’ve not heard anything for ages about it, and that was before the pandemic
Might it be more useful if the service ran through to Sheffield (via Worksop with reversal - or even omitting Worksop and using the south/west curve near Shireoaks )??
There was talk of extending to Lincoln but I don’t think there would be a benefit going to Sheffield (assuming the 2tph Northern service).

the junction near Shireoaks is slow and faffy and would likely take just as long (to fit in with other traffic) as a reversal at Worksop. I don’t think passenger services can use it (and certainly don’t currently) although that could likely be changed with some route knowledge updates.
the lack of bi directional tracks into Worksop from the Sheffield end (barring the crossover out of the platform) has become problematic during disruption but that said I don’t think the junction allows access from the down line from Nottingham to the ‘wrong’ line into the Sheffield bound platform at Worksop anyway Unless it’s changed in the last couple of years. The junction is generally quite awkward with the ‘mythical’ approach control so timing could become a bit of a pain.
 

edwin_m

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What if anything is happening about reopening to Ollerton and Edwinstowe?
It was being talked about again a year or two back. There's also the Midlands Connect plan for a service linking Mansfield with Toton via the freight line through Pinxton, to improve HS2 access. This could perhaps be through-worked with one of the other services proposed to serve Toton from the other direction, providing links to Derby or Leicester. At the northern end it could work through to the Ollerton line or turn back in the bay at Woodhouse if the current terminators went to Ollerton instead.

In terms of extending from Worksop, I've always thought the one stop extra to Retford would be worth looking at, providing ECML connections with only one change and a through Retford-Nottingham service.
 

robbeech

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In terms of extending from Worksop, I've always thought the one stop extra to Retford would be worth looking at, providing ECML connections with only one change and a through Retford-Nottingham service.
I’ve always thought the same, it could even terminate in platform 2 given the lack of ecml services at retford.


Or through to Doncaster Via Maltby
As wonderful as that would be, it is one huge long single track section so I can’t see that working without serious changes to the infrastructure.
 

WesternLancer

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It is all very heavil subsidised by Notts County Council and they will have had a say into this
I'm not sure that is true any more is it - I thought the whole line was moved over to central responsibility in SRA days for covering costs and losses, which at the start had indeed been covered by Notts and Derbys County Councils - small input from Derbys to cover the short stretch in that county.
So that would mean the service levels are part of the franchise (pre covid anyway) and not reliant on ongoing local subsidy.

APART from the Sunday service mentioned that was trialed in response to local requests and was subsidised by the Council as it was over and above what the then franchise specified - I think that was in EMT days before EMR - again if I understood correctly.

If there is local council funding in the mix (and there is certainly legacy funding in that the County paid for the station infrastructure of course as well as the line) I would think worth the OP banging on the door of the local County Councillor to ask the County Council's strategic transport team to press EMR about the poor timings, reduction in service and now poor connections for onward travel. Derbyshires such team was always very good tho no doubt they have suffered in the vast cut backs that have affected local council finances as central government has withdrawn funding support year on year for quite some time now.

And I'd be hassling my MP too - isn't this one of the 'red wall' areas that the Tory MP won from Dennis Skinner.... should have theoretical influence with in the same party of govt / DfT

What if anything is happening about reopening to Ollerton and Edwinstowe?
Good question - seems some focus on the Maid Marion way link (Pinxton line?) earlier in the year - with a lot of talk about HS2 connection - as opposed to a focus on more obvious local needs rather sooner than HS2.
I've not checked to see if either of these lines have made it forward on the govt's slightly odd 'reversing Beeching' long list.
 
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wallan

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I’ve always thought the same, it could even terminate in platform 2 given the lack of ecml services at retford.



As wonderful as that would be, it is one huge long single track section so I can’t see that working without serious changes to the infrastructure.
Not much else using the line at the moment
 

Starmill

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What went wrong?
I would argue that between Mansfield Woodhouse and Nottingham, nothing. It was a solid half-hourly service with peak-flow capacity deployment, reasonable journey times and well-located stations all along the route, including the bus station connection at Mansfield and the tramway connections at Nottingham, among others. As such it was well-patronised. The two Mansfield stations combined had about 600k annual users in 2018-19. Low side for proper half-hourly, but two-hourly Sundays would have put a dent in that, and I think hourly Sundays between Mansfield Woodhouse and Nottingham were in the EMR plan?

So the issues are merely with the other part of the line.
 

wallan

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I would argue that between Mansfield Woodhouse and Nottingham, nothing. It was a solid half-hourly service with peak-flow capacity deployment, reasonable journey times and well-located stations all along the route, including the bus station connection at Mansfield and the tramway connections at Nottingham, among others. As such it was well-patronised. The two Mansfield stations combined had about 600k annual users in 2018-19. Low side for proper half-hourly, but two-hourly Sundays would have put a dent in that, and I think hourly Sundays between Mansfield Woodhouse and Nottingham were in the EMR plan?

So the issues are merely with the other part of the line.
I am sure when the Line Reopened Derbyshire Pensioner Bus Passes were valid on the Trains ( Possibly North Of Mansfield ) , when this concession was withdrawn , the Pensioners went back to the Buses
 

WesternLancer

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I am sure when the Line Reopened Derbyshire Pensioner Bus Passes were valid on the Trains ( Possibly North Of Mansfield ) , when this concession was withdrawn , the Pensioners went back to the Buses
Yes, pretty sure you are correct - as a consequence of the sums Derbyshire CC contributed to the line re-opening. It may be that tje concession went when subsidy payments to the line moved to DfT as part of the general franchise support (if I am correct on that matter) and / or when the national bus pass scheme was rolled out which would alter the finances of all that I guess.

I guess key issue for the section north of Mansfield is the extent to which Mansfield and Worksop are travel to work destinations for people living near the small stations, or between those two towns. Then connections at Worksop are also vital but never seem to have been great unless the new Gainsboro services re-start which helps that. Population density north of mansfield that the line passes through is lower, so bound to have lower ridership levels.
As with many other places retired people will be using public transport less I suspect, and more workers will be working from home from now on.
 

ashworth

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Oh no. I’ve only just realised that the current hourly service between Mansfield and Nottingham is going to continue until at least December. The hourly train that arrives in Nottingham at xx45 is the one which just misses all the important connections at Nottingham.

Trains leave Nottingham to Norwich at xx35, Manchester/Liverpool at xx47, Skegness at xx45 and the east train to London at xx45. It’s exactly the same in the other direction where the xx26 departure to Mansfield and Worksop departs just before the arrivals from Norwich, Liverpool and Skegness.
So not only do we have nearly an hour to wait for connections at Worksop for Sheffield and Lincoln but now the same with nearly all connections at Nottingham too.
 
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ashworth

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What a typically British fudge. Is it self-contained? If so why can't it be offset a bit to make the connections useful?
If the train which normally terminates at Mansfield Woodhouse had been retained that would have connected with all major services at Nottingham. That was the service which passengers from Mansfield, Kirkby in Ashfield and Hucknall mainly use for longer journeys with onward connections. If that service had been retained and extended hourly to Worksop connections at Worksop would also be improved.
What an inconvenient mess which is going to last until at least December.
 

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