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29 October 2014

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Railway tracks
Life on the Robin Hood line

Stories on the line

Article by James Taylor
The Robin Hood line is ten years old. To celebrate commuters tell us their tales 'on the tracks'.

The Robin Hood line, from Nottingham to Mansfield Woodhouse opened in November 1995. It's now estimated that up to 3500 people use the Robin Hood line each day with over a million using it each year. In October over 77,000 people used the line, an increase of 21,000 during the same period in 1997.

To celebrate the Robin Hood line's 10th 'birthday' here's a celebration of the line and the people who use it...

A free ride

Louise from Shirebrook doesn't have time to get bored on the train these days; she normally uses the line to go into Nottingham for some retail therapy with daughter Stacey in tow (she keeps her busy!). She told me, though, of one occasion when she and her family (all huge Stags fans) went into Mansfield on the train to watch one of their games. She and her cousin were stood by one of the doors, because the train was full, while the rest of the family were sat further down the carriage.

The conductor went to the rest of the family and they paid.  He didn't reach the two of them near the door prompting shouts of "They haven't paid!", these cries, though, fell on deaf ears and they got a free ride. Although, she said, she's not a fair dodger (she had the money to pay) why shouldn't they take advantage of the situation when it arises?

Top tips

Commuters on the Robin Hood line
Louise, her mum Carol and child Stacey

Chris has used the line for the past two years to travel to work in Hucknall; she suggests reading to pass the time when travelling on the line. Her top tip is to arrange a book circle with friends, pass them on to each other, read them when you have time on the train and discuss them afterwards.

Some people suggest that this is unnecessary, Doreen who catches the train from Newstead commented that she didn't know why so many 'youngsters' had 'those things in their ears' (meaning earphones!) she's just happy to 'sit and watch the scenery go by'.

No more changes

John, a 55 year old man from Kirkby said that the line had given him a new lease of life. As he is disabled he is able to use a free travel pass to visit his sister in Shirebrook. Before the line opened he had to change buses twice, in Sutton and in Mansfield, which meant that he hardly ever saw her.

Love on the line

Many local residents use the line to commute to work, some may even find love. One woman who combined the two was Lucy from Langwith, used to use the line to travel to a factory in Worksop. It was on the train that she met fellow employee Gary. One evening on their way home from work he asked her out for a drink and the rest is history. They are now married with one child and are expecting another.

Spotting Thomas

Richard who lives in Worksop took his grandson Harry over the full length of the line.  He said that it was the first time he'd been on a train (Harry that is!), although he'd often taken his other grandchildren during the school holidays. Harry's mad keen on Thomas the Tank Engine and shouted out 'Thomas!' as every train passed the window.

Quotes from the line

"All the times I've been on it it has been very good, very efficient."

"I was about 15 when it opened and I rushed out to get on it."

"It's better than going on the bus and you do get to meet people and talk."

"The Robin Hood line is absolutely brilliant, I'm highly satisfied. Warm, reasonably cheap, I'm over the moon."

History of the Robin Hood line

The Midland Railway’s plans for the Leen Valley line (as it was then called, after the River Leen, the size of a stream which runs close to the line) received Royal Assent in July 1846 and was opened as far as Kirkby-in-Ashfield on 2 October 1848.  There, it joined with the Mansfield & Pinxton Railway; services from Mansfield to Nottingham began a year later.  More lines were built in the area by the Great Northern (GN) and Great Central Railways, (GCR) meaning that many towns on the line had three or more stations.

The line was owned by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) from 1923-1947 and in 1948 became part of the nationalised British Railways (BR).  By the early 60s, however rationalisation was the order of the day and the end was nigh with Dr Beeching’s report The Reshaping of British Railways.  All stations on the line were closed in October 1964 (although some had closed much earlier: Lenton in 1910 and Annersley in 1953), this left Mansfield with the dubious reputation of being the largest town in the country without rail link.

You know how the say fashion moves in circles, what was yesterday’s news becomes retro and it ‘in’ again.  Well, the same can be said for transport (although the circle is larger – like the wheels of a train!).   In the late 80s wheels were set in motion (wheels, get it, sorry sense of humour bypass needed!) by a consortium of local authorities, led by NCC, to reinstate passenger services between Nottingham and Worksop.  The biggest hurdle was the section between Newstead and Mansfield which had been lifted and land sold.  Kirkby Tunnel was reopened after being filled in and the line uses some of the old GN line through Kirkby.

The line between Nottingham and Newstead opened in 1993 and to Mansfield Woodhouse on 20th November 1995 (with the final extension to Worksop opening in 1998).

Since privatisation in the late 90s the line's services have been run by Central Trains who will operate the service until autumn 2007 when their franchise will be split and added to others to make three larger franchises (the Robin Hood Line will then be part of an East Midlands franchise, like BR's old regions, see I told you history was like a circle!).

The trains normally used on the line are diesel multiple units: class 156 'Super Sprinters' in service since 1988, class 158s in service since 1990 (both built by BR) and class 170 'Turbostar' units built by Central Trains in 1999-2000 (also used by other passenger operators).

last updated: 02/12/05
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