Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
The removal of the temporary toilet cabin back in September 2022 gave the opportunity for an improved layout of the station forecourt. This finally happened on 7th – 8th April 2023, when new white and yellow lines were marked out. Gone is the mini-roundabout, but reinstated is the ‘teardrop’ turning loop for taxis at the front of the main building. Five short-stay parking spaces have been laid out on the east side of the forecourt, backing onto the railway embankment, along with a more clearly defined walking route between the cycle hub and the approach footpath. We in Harborough Rail Users have been pressing for increased short-stay parking for some time, so it is good to see this happen. It has been suggested that the casual cycle parking in the black plastic ‘pods’ outside the cycle hub building are to be removed, to release another space for parking. We are concerned about this and have made representations for such provision to be provided. Cycle parking for occasional users is essential; the alternative is that people will just chain their bikes to anything fixed and could thereby create nuisance or even hazard. Subject to that, however, the revised forecourt is much better than the previous rather messy arrangements.
Freshly marked out: the new taxi rank arrangement at the front of the station on 7th April 2023.
Photo: Steve Jones
Among the various works continuing at Market Harborough station is the re-siting of the bus stop from the forecourt to the main car park entrance on the east side of the station. Though labelled for rail replacement buses, the stop is also served by the regular Centrebus route 44 linking Foxton, Harborough town centre, Great Bowden, the Langtons, Kibworth and Fleckney. As shown in the picture below, the new stop has a shelter. Other modifications to the forecourt include pick-up and drop-off spaces, staff car-parking, and the long-overdue removal of the pay + display ticket machine. Further changes are expected once the temporary toilet block is removed, when the new permanent toilets are opened on Platform 1.
New bus stop with shelter at the
main car park entrance,
6th April 2022.
Photo: Steve Jones
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
Following revisions to the Government's advice on the coronavirus lockdown, EMR have announced changes to train services from Monday 18th May. This is part of national step-up of services after the severe reductions that have been place since March. However, the advice is still that all passengers continue to follow Government travel advice and only travel if it is absolutely necessary.
The timetable pattern for the Midland Main Line, which serves Market Harborough, is as follows from 18th May until further notice:
2 Trains Per Hour each way between London and Sheffield:
Pending the publication of the actual timetables on the EMR website, we assume the Nottingham trains will all call at Market Harborough. Calling patterns may differ during AM and PM peak periods.
A consequence of the changed timetable from Monday 18th May is that the peak-time calls at Bedford and Luton, which had been temporarily reinstated since March, will again be withdrawn and the bus connections from Wellingborough reinstated. The reason is that social distancing is easier if Bedford and Luton peak passengers use Thameslink rather than EMR services; the tiny numbers likely to use the Wellingborough buses mean that distancing between passengers is not a problem.
Circa 80% of services will operate Monday to Saturday, with selected off-peak reductions compared to normal.
Services on all routes will operate throughout the normal hours of operation, with early and late services reinstated on routes where limited opening hours are currently in place.
Liverpool-Norwich services will re-commence operating between Sheffield and Liverpool, with a small number of off-peak cancellations on the route. Services between Nottingham and Worksop will operate hourly, calling at all intermediate stations.
Sunday services will continue to operate at current reduced levels.
Along with all train operators, EMR are introducing various social distancing measures to protect passengers and staff so far as is possible during this time. These measures include new signs at stations and on trains advising passengers about keeping two metres apart; some changes to entrances and exits at larger stations; marked out queuing arrangements at booking offices and ticket barriers; encouragement to use contactless card payments if buying tickets at stations; cordoning-off adjacent seats and ticket machines at stations; removal of leaflets; and regular cleaning of 'touch surfaces'. However, they acknowledge that it is up to passengers to conduct themselves sensibly; train company staff cannot physically enforce the rules for everyone and we all have a part to play. On-train catering and seat reservations remain suspended. EMR advise that all the procedures and rules remain under constant review and are subject to change.
Services have been running well so far during the lock-down period, with high levels of punctuality achieved. However, though numbers are beginning increase, there has been a massive reduction in usage of our trains; the picture below shows the car park at Market Harborough completely empty, though admittedly it was on a Sunday, 3rd May.
HRU Chair Steve Jones met Network Rail’s Communications Manager Celia Davis at Market Harborough station on 10th February, to discuss current topics for the station and the line. These included the subway and full length of platform 2, which have remained closed since the new platforms opened in June 2019.
We discussed the extended car park, which is a major improvement, though HRU feel that better provision is needed for short-stay parking, especially for those dropping off or picking up passengers from that side of the station. We await further information on the planned further improvements including permanent toilets, plus provision for landscaping around the station.
We also discussed the Station Road bridge in Great Bowden, where local residents have expressed concern about the narrow footway since the bridge was modified to improve its protection from damage by road vehicles. The local authorities are also looking into this.
HRU were later notified that the subway and platform 2 have now been approved for opening on Monday 17th February 2020.