Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
Market Harborough station reopened today, 3rd June 2019, after a six-day closure, during which the new track alignment was completed. Though there were no official ceremonies, there was much local interest, plus pride on the part of Network Rail, their contractors and East Midlands Trains that the project had been completed on time and to a very high standard. The long-awaited footbridge with lifts is now in use. Though platform 1, northbound, is complete, some work remains on platform 2 (southbound) to bring its full length into use. Until then, platform 2 is only five carriages long. Work will continue on this, and the extension of the car park to give an extra 200 spaces. Though there are additional features that HRU would wish to see provided, there is no doubt that the new station is a massive improvement on the previous one.
The long-awaited blockade of the line through Market Harborough started this morning, 28th May. The line is now closed until Monday 3rd June, when the new platforms are due to open. Day 1 of the blockade has seen the old track through the station lifted and the old platforms largely demolished, with the sleepers for the new down line (northbound) now laid along the new alignment to where it joins the existing line. It is a scene of busy activity. The rail replacement bus service, every 15 minutes to both Kettering and Leicester, has operated smoothly. The station car park is free of charge for the duration of the blockade, and passengers are also offered free hot drinks and buns from the Engine Room cafe van in the car park.
A good start to this complex and important project!
HRU Chair Steve Jones met EMT's Stakeholder Manager Laura Etheridge at Market Harborough station on 13th May. The main purpose of the meeting was to consider the forthcoming six-day blockade at Market Harborough, when the station will be closed to allow the new track alignment and platforms to be connected up. We discussed the arrangements for replacement buses, including the need for earlier first buses to Leicester and Kettering and a later last bus from Kettering to allow a later last connecting train departure from St Pancras than 22:00. (Three later trains are scheduled, but no onward bus for these from Kettering to Market Harborough.)
Other matters discussed included:
Abellio has been confirmed by the Department for Transport as the new operator for the East Midlands franchise, starting on 18th August 2019. This follows the 'standstill' period after they were announced as the winning bidder. In a press statement issued on 9th May, Abellio said:
"Abellio will invest £600 million including: brand new bi-mode intercity trains between the East Midlands, the North and London; a high-quality, dedicated, electric train service between London, Luton Airport and Corby; and the introduction of faster, modern, refurbished trains across the whole network. This investment will also see transformed stations, improved ticketing and accessibility, enhanced training and benefits for employees, including 30 new apprenticeships each year for young people. There will be closer working with Network Rail to maximise the benefits of the ongoing £1.5 billion Midland Main Line upgrade."
We look forward to meeting Abellio at an early stage, and working with them as they replace the train fleet and participate in the upgrade of the Midland Main Line.
The next Committee meeting of HRU has been arranged for Monday 29th April, starting at 18:00, in the front bar of the Oat Hill pub restaurant on Kettering Road, Little Bowden. On the agenda are the new East Midlands franchise announcement plus the rebuilding of Market Harborough station and the associated forthcoming line closure from 28th May to 2nd June. Anyone with an interest in the train service from Market Harborough is welcome to attend.