Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
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
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.
Following discussions and comments from local rail users, Harborough Rail Users have submitted a response to the EMR consultation on the timetable from December 2020. This is when the electrification from Bedford to Kettering and Corby opens, with two trains per hour (2tph) between Corby and London, calling at all EMR intermediate stations. Because of this, EMR propose that the Intercity trains that serve Market Harborough will stop only at Kettering on their way to or from St Pancras. We will still have two trains per hour, at roughly half-hourly intervals, with Nottingham via Leicester being the other destination. London to Sheffield will also have 2tph but these will run non-stop between St Pancras and Leicester.
We have submitted our comments:
EMR posted details of their proposals for the Midland Main Line on their website: https://www.eastmidlandsrailway.co.uk/december2020.
The consultation closes on 14th February and responses will then be analysed. Between March and September, EMR, Network Rail, the Office of Rail and Road (the Government's regulatory body), and other train operators such as Thameslink, will determine how best to accommodate the various demands on the line. Agreed timetables must be published by mid-September 2020, 12 weeks before they come into effect in mid-December.
December 2020 sees significant changes to services on the Midland Main Line from St Pancras, which includes Market Harborough. The main change is the opening of the EMR Electric service between London and Corby, which doubles in frequency to two per hour each way. This brings the standard pattern of EMR train services out of St Pancras to six per hour in each direction, comprising:
This means that we retain two trains per hour in each direction. Southbound, they will all call at Kettering only, then fast to St Pancras. We shall have to change at Kettering to reach any other intermediate station between there and London. Passengers for Thameslink-only destinations such as Harpenden or St Albans will have to change twice. However, the peak-time bus connection between Wellingborough and Bedford will cease, as trains will be reinstated.
Northbound, our trains will all go to Nottingham, essentially as now. One per hour will be non-stop from Leicester; the other will call at Loughborough, East Midlands Parkway and Beeston. The only significant change from now is that the East Midlands Parkway stop transfers from the fast train to the stopping train.
We do not yet know the actual timings, of course, nor about any variations to this standard pattern during peak times or for early morning or late evening services. For example, some of our late evening northbound trains currently go to Derby or Leeds, as that is where the depots are.
Full details of the proposed timetable are available at:
Harborough Rail Users will be responding to the consultation. Please let us know if there is anything you would like us to take into account: use the Get in Touch facility on our website https://www.harborough-rail.org.uk/get-in-touch.html or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a public consultation, so the EMR website gives a facility for you to respond directly as well. The consultation closes on 15th February 2020.
And don’t forget, this is the timetable for December 2020 – a year away yet!
For well over 100 years, there has been a barrow-crossing across the tracks at the south end of the platforms at Market Harborough. However, with the opening of the new car park and step-free access to the southbound platform, the need to take disabled passengers across at track level from one platform to the other is much reduced. This crossing is the last one on the whole line and there is a strong desire to close it and remove the obvious risk it involves.
However, the need for all passengers to be able to transfer from one platform to the other remains. Until the new footbridge is built (summer 2019), EMT are proposing a free accessible taxi between the respective station entrances. This will be a temporary arrangement until the new bridge is open.
In principle, HRU welcome the closure of the crossing as it is an anachronism on a busy main line in 2018. However, we have sought assurances that the taxi arrangement will be properly accessible and user-friendly. We do not want passengers to have to wait unduly and certainly not risk missing their trains. EMT have undertaken to put in hand such arrangements.
Further details are at: