Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
During the rebuilding of the station in summer 2019, the old Harborough Rail Users noticeboard disappeared. It was on the approach wall to the subway and was an important means of communicating the activities of HRU to the users of the station. Repeated enquiries never identified what happened to it! However, EMR agreed to provide a replacement, and this was installed on 21st September 2021, next to the position of the old one. We are grateful to EMR for providing this.
Out with the old, in with the new. On the left, the new HRU noticeboard installed by EMR on the subway wall on 21st September 2021. The grubby area of paintwork just beyond it is where the old one was, seen in the rather murky picture on the right, taken on 27th May 2019, just after the departure of the last train from the old platforms prior to the rebuilding. No-one seems to know what happened to it!
Pictures: Steve Jones
Long-awaited renovation works on the Victorian main building and the ramp up to Platform 1 were in progress in late August. With the recent emphasis on the new construction at platform level, the older part of the station was getting rather shabby and in need of some TLC. On 24th August, there was evidence of that happening, with some replacement windows on the covered ramp up from the booking office, where timber had become quite rotten. Work was also in hand on the sash windows on the upper floor of the main building frontage. Market Harborough's main building is an absolute architectural gem and deserves to be kept in good repair.
Work in progress: old windows removed and a new sill fitted on the covered ramp at Market Harborough station, 24th August 2021. (Photo: Steve Jones)
Later that same day: new windows fitted (2nd, 3rd and 4th from left) on the covered ramp, in an authentic style. Note the broad metal-edged kerb at the foot of the wall; this was used as a brake for slowing heavy luggage and parcels trolleys on their way down from the platform in days gone by! (Photo: Steve Jones)
The lovely frontage of Market Harborough station on 24th August 2021. The left-hand section of the centre-right double window on the first floor was undergoing repair work.
(Photo: Steve Jones)
The Government’s ‘roadmap’ for easing Covid restrictions originally intended to see the country return to near normal in late June. However, this was postponed by four weeks to Monday 19th July, which was heralded for a time as ‘Freedom Day’. The railway industry was hoping this might also mean that their marketing campaign to encourage people back would also be permitted. However, the four-week postponement has coincided with a massive increase in infections. Hospitalisations and deaths have also risen, though by a much lower rate than in previous 'waves', because of the protection given by the vaccination programme.
The legal requirement for face coverings on most public transport and elsewhere is revoked. (Some operators, such as TfL, have made face coverings a requirement in their conditions of carriage.) However, the current ‘third wave’ means that the national mood is not one of celebration; there is a great deal of fear, and many people were still required to self-isolate because of contact with infected people. This is leading to train operators often struggling to run the complete timetable because of staff shortages.
EMR have advised that there would be no change to Covid-safe requirements for staff, nor would there be any reduction in the cleaning and sanitisation regime for trains and stations. Though the legal requirement had gone, EMR and other train operators have adopted an advisory policy of ‘In crowded spaces, wear a face covering out of respect for others’.
More details are on EMR's website at: https://www.eastmidlandsrailway.co.uk/covid-19#
Revisions have been made to the station forecourt area. The area previously occupied by a temporary toilet block has been marked out with six disabled parking bays, and the taxis have been moved to a small area on the opposite side, next to the railway embankment; this area remains constrained by the new temporary toilets.
Harborough Rail Users have asked about plans for the forecourt once the temporary toilets have been replaced by a new permanent facility at platform level. One serious limitation at the station is the almost complete absence of short-stay parking; that at the entrance to the main car park only has four bays and is clearly marked 'Drop off only - no waiting'. That makes it unavailable for anyone arriving by car to meet someone off a train. The forecourt currently only has two general-use parking bays (complete with the ludicrous Pay & Display machine!). Given the sheer scale of the main car park, it is extraordinary that a station serving a large car-dependent rural catchment area has such inadequate short-stay parking! We shall continue to pursue this with EMR.
We would also like to see a barrier installed on the edge of the pavement immediately outside the main building entrance doors. This would channel people leaving the station onto the pavements to left and right, and thereby, for example, stop children running out into the vehicle area.
Revised parking arrangements: new disabled parking bays outside the main building at Market Harborough station.
We await details of further revisions to the layout of the station forecourt once the temporary toilet block has been replaced by a new facility at platform level.
Picture: Steve Jones
England's Economic Heartland (EEH), the sub-national transport body covering a broad sweep of the south Midlands, including Northamptonshire, are consulting on connectivity across the region, between Oxford, Northampton and Peterborough. They have rightly identified that rail provision is very much dominated by the main lines radiating out of London, with precious little linking between them. The consultation takes the form of a 'call for evidence', and, of course, it is not just about railways. Indeed, post-Covid, the need to travel at all may be permanently somewhat reduced. Further information can be found here:
Though Market Harborough is outside EEH, it is only so by a few hundred yards and many of its users live in the EEH area or (pre-Covid) commuted to towns etc well within EEH (e.g. Kettering, Bedford and Luton). We therefore submitted a response, welcoming the forthcoming improvements that East West Rail (Oxford - Cambridge) will bring via interchange at Bedford, but noting other gaps. We support in principle other proposed developments, such as the Welland Valley Rail Partnership proposal for a Kettering - Peterborough service mostly using existing lines, as well as the tentative proposal for reopening between Market Harborough and Northampton as part of a longer inter-regional link. All of this is in the context of changed travel patterns post-Covid and the need for more environmentally friendly and low-carbon alternatives to the present almost complete dependence on private cars.
The consultation closes on 30th June and we await both the outcome and further forthcoming studies relevant to our area.
Making connections. The Marston Vale Line train to Bletchley awaits departure from Bedford on 26th May 2021. These trains are converted from former London Underground cars and provide a useful local service. However, this route is now being upgraded as part of East West Rail, a main-line link reinstating a direct connection between Oxford and Cambridge, with numerous interchanges along the way. It will make rail journeys between Market Harborough and both Oxford and Cambridge very much easier than they are now.
Picture: Steve Jones