Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
Last September, the DfT announced the next round of Access for All funding for railway stations. Funds from a national allocation of £300m must be bid for by 'local delivery groups', which for Market Harborough means East Midlands Trains and Network Rail. They are including additional accessibility enhancements for our station in their overall bid for the EMT network.
HRU and Harborough MP Neil O'Brien have both submitted letters in support of this bid, which seeks funding towards an additional lift between the booking office and the new northbound platform, plus an accessible toilet on the new southbound platform. The DfT is due to announce its decision in April 2019.
On 17th September 2018, Nusrat Ghani MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, wrote to all MPs outlining the latest allocation of funds under the Access for All programme. This sets aside £300m for access improvements to railway stations as part of the government's Inclusive Transport Strategy, launched on 25th July. The funding covers Network Rail's 'Control Period 6' (CP6): the five years from 1st April 2019 to 31st March 2024. Bids for funds must be made by 'Local Delivery Groups' (LDGs), which usually means the local train operator and Network Rail. The deadline for bids is 16th November 2018, with the results announced in April 2019.
Market Harborough has already had an allocation of Access for All funds for the planned footbridge with lifts; this is due to be built with the new platforms on the straightened line in 2019. However, we seek further enhancements to the station's accessibility, in the form of:
We in Harborough Rail Users have been liaising with Harborough MP Neil O'Brien about all this and he has written to East Midlands Trains seeking a meeting. This is a first step towards getting a bid submitted for the additional enhancements to bring our increasingly busy station up to fully accessible modern standards. If recent growth trends continue, especially with all the new housing being built in the area, it will not be long before Market Harborough station sees over a million passenger journeys a year! We need a station that fully matches that level of business!
Further information is on the DfT website at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/access-for-all-programme
and Network Rail https://www.networkrail.co.uk/communities/passengers/station-improvements/access-for-all/
In issuing the Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the next East Midlands franchise, the Department for Transport (DfT) has set out the essential specification for our train service from August 2019. Harborough Rail Users have therefore had final consultation meetings with all three bidders on the shortlist: Abellio, Arriva and Stagecoach.
We had met all three before the ITT was issued and they have had details of our aspirations for the train service and the Market Harborough station. We took the opportunity to bring to their attention our full response to the DfT's own consultation and talk with each about that and the ITT. Our approach is completely independent and impartial; we want the best possible train service for Market Harborough, irrespective of who provides it.
Franchise bidding is, of course, a competitive process and therefore the companies are as yet unable to share any plans they may have. Similarly, the discussions we had with them were conducted in full recognition of commercial confidentiality. Their bids must be submitted by 5th September 2018 and the outcome will be made known by the DfT in March or April 2019. We now await the outcome!
The Department for Transport has today published the Invitation to Tender for the next franchise for the services currently run by East Midlands Trains. There is a lot of information, which can be found on the DfT website:
A significant document is the Stakeholder Briefing Document. This summarises the responses to the public consultation:
Market Harborough is named as one of the top five stations in terms of responses! There is even a picture of the Old Grammar School on p76! However, it is the detail that matters...
HRU will be reviewing the documents in detail to see exactly what is proposed for our train service.
A site visit at the station took place on 1st December between three members of the HRU Committee, Harborough MP Neil O’Brien and representatives of the DfT, Network Rail and East Midlands Trains. This arose from a meeting on 14th November between Neil O’Brien and Rail Minister Paul Maynard MP at the Houses of Parliament on 14th November; with the DfT also present along with HRU Chair Steve Jones.
The site visit was convened at the DfT's suggestion to explore two particular concerns we have about the station upgrade and track realignment: the lack of proper access for the disabled from the booking office to the platforms and the lack of toilets on the new southbound platform. We looked around the station site and considered the implications including the best location for a lift, the requirements for mains electrical, water and drainage services and the other improvements that are included in the plans for the station. The various parties listened to what we said and, while not disagreeing, it was clear that limited finance is the main constraint here. There are many competing demands for limited funds! We are grateful that the various parties took time out to visit Market Harborough and discuss the issues openly with us. However, we will continue to press for these enhancements to what is otherwise a significant improvement to the station.