|Operator(s)||East Midlands Trains|
|Number of tracks||Two|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
The Grantham–Skegness line, originally promoted as the "Poacher Line", runs for 55 miles (89 km) between Grantham and Skegness in Lincolnshire, England. Trains on this route originate from Nottingham via the Nottingham to Grantham Line as an hourly through service from Nottingham to Skegness, with slower stopping services at peak times. The line is operated by East Midlands Trains British Rail Class 156 "Super-Sprinter", British Rail Class 153 "Super-Sprinter" and British Rail Class 158 "Sprinter Express" diesel multiple units, on a rare occasion ('Summer Saturdays' only) does a British Rail Class 43 (HST) run on this line.
The route was selected as one of the seven pilot schemes under the Department for Transport's Community Rail Development Strategy in 2005 and was formally designated as a community rail service in July 2006. Passenger use of the line has grown since becoming a community rail line and the Poacher Line Community Rail Partnership actively promotes the route through marketing promotions, ticketing offers, music trains and guided walks. Redundant space at stations at Sleaford and Boston is being brought back into community use. Members of the Partnership include Lincolnshire County Council, East Midlands Trains, Association of Community Rail Partnerships and Network Rail. Given the natural flows along it made sense to extend the Partnership to Nottingham. Nottinghamshire County Council was invited to join the partnership and became full members in 2007.
§ All minor stations closed on Sundays
The route is a community rail line. In November 2005 it was reported that the section between Boston and Skegness was unable to take heavier trains although work to enhance the track took place during winter 2009/10. The line is not electrified and is single track from Sleaford to Heckington and Hubbert's Bridge to Sibsey with a passing loop at Boston. These were singled in the early 1980s to reduce track maintenance costs.
Trains and train crews operating the Poacher Line are based at Boston & Nottingham. Nottingham to Skegness takes between 1 hour 50 minutes and 2 hours 15 minutes. A couple of express Skegness-Sleaford-Nottingham trains run avoiding Grantham, these also call at Wainfleet, Boston, Heckington & Bingham. The last evening train at 9pm from Skegness is an express to Nottingham, avoiding Grantham. Grantham to Skegness takes about 1 hour 30 minutes on the Poacher Line. The reference is to the traditional song Lincolnshire Poacher.
As well as providing the only rail service for Boston and Skegness the line also provides the most frequent and reliable service from Sleaford to reach London. Sleaford can be accessed by a second route (the Peterborough to Lincoln Line), however this has services which do not run late at night nor on Sundays. In 2007, Central Trains, the then operator, announced that longer trains would be used on the line as overcrowding at weekends has become a severe problem.
East Midlands Trains took over the operation of all routes in the East Midlands in November 2007 and have in the past expressed an interest in running London – Skegness trains on summer Saturdays. This has been delayed by Network Rail putting back the track repairs between Boston and Skegness to 2010.
The East Lincolnshire Railway from Boston to Louth opened in March 1848, and the section from Grantham to Boston known as the Ambergate, Nottingham, Boston and Eastern Junction Railway opened in 1855, both owned by the GNR company. The section from Wainfleet to Skegness opened in August 1873 (by the Wainfleet and Firsby Railway Company, later owned by the GNR in the late 1890s). The GNR became part of the LNER in 1923. When other nearby lines were still open it became a less important route, except for its section from Boston to Little Steeping which was shared with the more important Peterborough to Grimsby line (via Louth) until October 1970 - this resulted in the line's unusually sharp curve in the track near Little Steeping where it joins the Skegness line (which was originally opened as a branch from Firsby). This also had a section from here to Woodhall Spa and on to Lincoln. There has never been a direct line from Skegness to Mablethorpe also on the coast; travellers to Mablethorpe went via either a branch line from Willoughby (from the south which opened in October 1886), or Louth (from the north which opened in September 1888).
The Skegness part of the line inspired the famous poster, designed in 1908 for the GNR.
When part of the line was shared with the East Coast Main Line, there was a common bottleneck on the three miles north of Grantham to the Barkston South junction, which held up valuable slots on a more important route. A solution was urgently needed to get the Skegness trains off this route. In October 2005, trains heading for Skegness were temporarily diverted back towards Nottingham until the Allington junction, a new £11 million short section of track, was built to allow trains to head on to the Grantham Avoiding Line. This has increased reliability at the expense of a slightly increased standard (but non-halted) journey time.
- "UK | England | Lincolnshire | Communities 'key to rail future'". BBC News. 2 December 2004. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
- "UK | England | Lincolnshire | Battle to save 'seaside special'". BBC News. 1 November 2005. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
- RUS p146
- GB National Rail Timetable 2013-14, Table 18
- Bradshaw's 1905, p. 112
- http://www.leytransport.i12.com/railmapb.htm Archived 22 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Skegness – stock photo and image search – by Science & Society Picture Library". Scienceandsociety.co.uk. 23 April 2008. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
- Fleet, Wayne (September 1988). "The line which time forgot". RAIL. No. 84. EMAP National Publications. pp. 20–21. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.