Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
As the InterCity 125 HSTs near the end of their long careers on the Midland Main Line, EMR have taken the pleasing step of repainting power car 43102 in the stylish British Rail InterCity ‘Swallow’ livery. This power car, partnered with sister 43159, achieved the world speed record for a diesel train, on a test run between Northallerton and York on 1st November 1987. The record, 148.5mph, still stands.
HSTs have been running on our line for 39 years but this comes to an end with the timetable change in May 2021. The introduction of electric trains on the Corby services and a reshuffle of the Meridian fleet along with the recently introduced Class 180 trains means the HSTs can be retired. With the current timetable reduced because of Covid, only two HSTs are currently in use each day. It seems incredible now to think that they were built in the mid- to late-1970s as a temporary stop-gap pending development of the tilting Advanced Passenger Train (APT), and are still working with several train operators over 40 years later! They transformed long-distance travel in Britain and they will be much missed. 43102, however, is destined for dignified retirement at the National Railway Museum in York.
Design classic: HST power car 43102, freshly repainted in BR Intercity ‘Swallow’ livery, waits at Market Harborough with the 16:29 to Nottingham (15:34 ex-St Pancras) on 24th February 2021. After withdrawal from EMR service by May 2021, it is understood to be destined for the National Railway Museum in York. Photo: Steve Jones
Record-breaker: The nameplate on 43102, commemorating its achievement back in 1987. Photo: Steve Jones
On 29th January, Harborough Rail Users we invited consulting engineers JNP Group to take part in a public consultation on proposals to demolish the now-closed 1970s building at the south end of Platform 1 and construct a new building with toilets and a waiting room further along the platform. The short connecting ramp between the original Victorian ramp up from the booking office and the platform is to be reconstructed with a shallower angle of slope. A small canopy is proposed for the top of the ramp in place of the 1970s building.
The timescale for the work is between July 2021 and March 2022 and it is long overdue. HRU responded on 12th February, welcoming the project overall. We feel the optimum location for the new building is immediately south of the footbridge. We set out our views on the amenity and accessibility implications, especially as the new platforms are surprisingly narrow given the availability of land. We asked whether the disabled-accessible toilet will be of the ‘changing places’ kind, and commented on the furnishing and finish of the waiting room; plus the weather-protection at the top of the ramp once the 1970s building has gone. We also called for the new structures to have some ‘warmth’ in their design, including sympathetic architectural treatment of the area around the top of the Victorian ramp.
We now await further information about the project. Once built, the temporary toilet cabin in the station forecourt can be removed, which allow the forecourt to be tidied up and the layout reviewed in terms of pedestrian and vehicle safety.
EMR have announced a revised timetable from Monday 18th January, with some service reductions. The main reason is reduced availability of traincrew staff because of Covid-related absences. EMR have understandably made the decision that it is better to have a reduced timetable than to have ad hoc cancellations day by day.
For Market Harborough, the weekday timetable is little changed; the only changes are that the 19:40 runs only to Sheffield, not Leeds, and from 1st February the 20:55 from Nottingham to St Pancras, calling at Market Harborough at 21:42, no longer runs. However, on Saturdays, numerous trains between Nottingham and St Pancras no longer run, and our 07:33 to York is also withdrawn. Other trains that are still running may have reduced numbers of carriages.
EMR Regional services, none of which serve Market Harborough, see varying reductions from Monday 26th January.
EMR state that: "We will continue to keep these changes under review, alongside the impact of Covid on the availability of our staff. As a minimum it is envisaged this timetable will run until the national lockdown is lifted and at which point, we will look to move towards reinstatement to today’s (pre-18th January) service level as soon as is possible."
Alongside the part-electrification of the Midland Main Line, EMR is replacing its entire InterCity fleet with new Hitachi bi-mode trains, which are due to enter service in 2023. (See this for more: https://www.harborough-rail.org.uk/home/new-emr-intercity-train-fleet-to-be-named-aurora). However, the InterCity 125 High-Speed Trains (HSTs), which form about half of the present services between St Pancras and Nottingham, are approaching life-expiry and are due to be withdrawn soon. Therefore, as an interim measure, EMR have received four Class 180 diesel multiple units transferred from Hull Trains. The first of these entered service today, 14th December, on a small number of services to and from St Pancras. This does not mean the end of the HSTs just yet, however, but there will be fewer of them.
Purple thing: a Class 180 train forms the 15:26 Market Harborough to St Pancras (14:45 from Nottingham) on Monday 14th December 2020, the first day in service with EMR for the type. (Picture: Steve Jones)
The Midland Pullman was an iconic luxury train of the early 1960s and regularly ran through Market Harborough on its journeys between London and Manchester. It last ran in 1966, and sadly none of the vehicles survived into preservation.
However, the modern diesel-electric air-conditioned train bore some similarity with the familiar InterCity 125 High Speed Trains, HSTs, which have been the mainstay of our train service at Market Harborough since 1982. As these, too, approach the end of their careers, it is pleasing that one of the type has been acquired by Locomotive Services Ltd, operator of heritage locomotives on the national network, as an excursion train. They have refurbished it as authentically as possible into the style of the original Blue Pullmans, for use as a tour train. Its inaugural run was delayed by Covid but took place on Saturday 12th December 2020, on a figure-of-eight circuit from St Pancras via Market Harborough, bypassing Sheffield, to the outskirts of Manchester, and back via Crewe, Nuneaton, Leicester, Oakham, Harringworth viaduct and Corby to St Pancras.
Despite murky weather, quite a few people turned out at Market Harborough station to see it come through a few minutes later than its booked time of 10:18. It is due to call at Market Harborough on Saturday 16th January on a tour to the Settle and Carlisle line.