Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
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.
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.
The Rail Minister, Andrew Jones MP, visited Market Harborough station on 27th June. He was on his way to Leicester to meet regional transport agency Midlands Connect to receive their Business Case for the ‘Midlands Rail Hub’ programme of rail investments. He took the opportunity to stop off at Market Harborough and view our station. Harborough MP Neil O'Brien was also there, plus representatives of Network Rail, East Midlands Trains and the Leicester & Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).
HRU Chair Steve Jones was invited to meet the Minister, and we spoke about the major improvements already made but also the need for additional enhancements to accessibility, cycle parking, toilets and platform canopies. Electrification was also mentioned, along with the planned new rolling stock. The Minister is plainly enthusiastic about the investment going into the railway nationally and it was good to have the opportunity to meet him and discuss local rail issues with him. The picture shows the Minister being interviewed by local radio station HfM.
A full press release from the Department for Transport can be viewed at www.gov.uk/government/news/53-million-line-upgrade-to-help-make-midlands-railways-fit-for-the-future.
In an announcement that caught many by surprise, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced today that the next East Midlands franchise is to be awarded to Abellio, a subsidiary of Netherlands Railways. Trading as East Midlands Railway, the new franchise is due to start on 18th August 2019 and run for eight years, to 21st August 2027, with an option for a possible extension of a further two years. Various improvements and investments are promised, including a new fleet of trains for the main line, extra capacity in the morning peak on services into London, plus other innovations such as trials with trains powered by hydrogen fuel-cells. More day-to-day improvements include free wi-fi throughout the journey, something Harborough Rail Users have campaigned for, plus the increasingly standard compensation for delays of more than 15 minutes. We await the details of service changes and we hope to meet the new operator in the near future. We have had - and continue to have - a good working relationship with East Midlands Trains and we hope to have similarly constructive communication with Abellio once they have taken over.
The Department for Transport has announced that the Midland Main Line is to be electrified to Market Harborough. This is an extension of the scheme currently under way to electrify from Bedford to Kettering and Corby. The decision had been anticipated, as the power supply for that electrification will be from the National Grid high-voltage power line that crosses the railway near Braybrooke, just south of Market Harborough. It makes sense to feed that power back to Kettering using overhead wires rather than an underground conduit, and then to extend it for 'the last mile' into Market Harborough. The decision means that our trains will run electrically all the way between Market Harborough and London. This will make them quieter, cleaner and faster. Until electrification is extended further, however, they will switch to diesel for the section north to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield.
The Market Harborough electrification is due to be completed in December 2023.
The decision is warmly welcome, but we need to ensure that Market Harborough retains an inter-city service rather than becoming the terminus for outer-suburban trains.