Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
Abellio EMR – East Midlands Railway – was officially launched on Monday 19th August at an all-day launch event starting with a media reception at Leicester station. This was followed by presentations from numerous speakers at the Roundhouse conference centre in Derby, after which a newly re-liveried Meridian train was unveiled at Derby station. Invited guests, including Harborough Rail Users Chair Steve Jones (in his capacity as Railfuture East Midlands Branch Secretary) travelled on the train to Nottingham and then to St Pancras, at each of which were further media events and presentations. At St Pancras, partnership agreements were signed between Abellio and HS1 (whose London terminus is at St Pancras) and Luton Airport.
Many organisations from the East Midlands, including rail industry bodies, rail user representative groups, local authorities and other interested parties were present. The event gave a good opportunity to meet people from these organisations as well as senior Abellio and EMR management. It was all very well organised and sets the scene for the next stage in the development of our railway and the services on it.
In a press release, EMR promise 'More services with faster journey times on intercity routes and better regional and local services, especially including at peak times and weekends from St Pancras to Leicester and Market Harborough'. Harborough Rail Users will be seeking to meet EMR before too long, now they are in place as our train operator. We want to explore their plans for our station and train services, especially from 2020 as the HSTs are withdrawn and the Corby electrification comes into service.
EMR Interim Managing Director Julian Edwards with the newly branded EMR Meridian train at Derby shortly before its inaugural run to Nottingham and St Pancras.
Senior representatives of Abellio, HS1 Ltd and Luton Airport proclaim the partnerships signed at St Pancras during the EMR launch event on 19th August.
An unwelcome annual event is the announcement of next year's increase in regulated fares. These cover about 45% of all tickets, including Anytime day tickets, seasons and off-peak fares. They are based on the Retail Prices Index (RPI) for the previous July, even though this is no longer an official 'national statistic', and the figure this time is 2.8%. It acts as a cap on the average of a 'basket' of fares. Many fares are unregulated, including advance and first class tickets; these are left to the train companies to determine.
Along with other rail user groups and representatives, Harborough Rail Users have expressed dismay at the increase. We feel the more widely recognised Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which tends to be slightly lower, should be used instead. Better still, as the rail industry seeks to re-establish public trust after a turbulent couple of years, would be no increase at all!
Despite that, the increase in fares is intended to contribute towards investment in the railway and we are seeing a lot of that on our line, not least at our own station in Market Harborough.
East Midlands Trains have decorated one of their HSTs with a special livery as they approach the end of their franchise. It proudly proclaims the 11 years of the franchise, and the train was then used for a commemorative 'farewell' tour on a circuitous route from Leeds to Derby via North London on 10th August. It passed through Market Harborough at 11:10 on its way to London, but bypassed both St Pancras and Kings Cross before heading back via Peterborough and Grantham.
The pictures below show (left) the train approaching Market Harborough on its special run, and (right) a few days later at Nottingham.
Abellio EMR, who take over the East Midlands Railway franchise on 18th August, have today confirmed that they have ordered a complete new fleet of inter-city trains for the Midland Main Line, which serves Market Harborough. The £400m contract is for a fleet of 33 five-car trains, which will start operating in 2022. They will regularly operate in 10-car formations (two units coupled together) and will operate on electric power where possible and diesel elsewhere. The trains will be built by Hitachi in County Durham and are the latest version of a type of train entering service with numerous other operators across the country including GWR and LNER.
An image of the new train appears below, courtesy of Abellio and Hitachi.
Harborough MP Neil O'Brien took the opportunity during House of Commons Transport questions today, 18th July, to ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Andrew Jones MP) about the intended cycle hub for Market Harborough station:
'East Midlands Trains, my local rail users group and I are bidding for funds for a cycle hub at Market Harborough railway station. The Minister, who has recently visited, knows that many more people are taking that healthy way to the station in the morning. Will he look favourably on our bid?'
Replying, the Minister said:
'I thoroughly enjoyed my recent visit to Market Harborough to see the work taking place there: the significant upgrade to services, the straightening of the line and a new station. The new east midlands franchise will deliver over £17 million of investment in station facilities across the route, including extra cycle spaces, 100 of which will be delivered at Market Harborough. I am very happy to champion that, and to encourage smooth and early delivery.'
We now look forward to rapid progress towards implementation of this long-awaited scheme to provide more, better quality and more secure cycle parking arrangements at the station.