Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
Users of Market Harborough station will have noticed evidence of electrification really getting under way. At the time of writing, overhead line masts have been installed just north of the platforms, and through Little Bowden. Lengthy stretches of the line through Braybrooke and most of the way to Kettering now have at least some evidence of electrification, whether that be the mast support bases, masts themselves and, in many cases, the gantry brackets that will carry the wires. The power supply substation at Braybrooke is also very much under construction.
The Government’s Integrated Rail Plan promises electrification of the entire Midland Main Line, right through to Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield. We now trust that once the electrification has reached Market Harborough, it can swiftly continue towards Leicester.
It’s coming. On a sunny 13th January 2022, an EMR Meridian train passes the first electrification masts at Market Harborough station as it arrives with the 15:03 to Nottingham. Most of the line through to Kettering now has some evidence of electrification equipment by the lineside.
Photo: Steve Jones
Work on the long-awaited electrification of the main line from Kettering to Market Harborough officially started on Saturday 11th December. Much preparatory work had already taken place, including cutting back of lineside vegetation that might interfere with the overhead lines, plus a start on the power supply substation at Braybrooke, just outside Market Harborough. The first job for the electrification teams, who are operating out of site compounds at Rushton, Braybrooke and behind Platform 1 at Market Harborough, is to install the tubular steel piles in the ground to support the overhead line masts. Several of these were already in place at Braybrooke on 11th December. Work continues on this operation, mostly overnight plus some weekend working, until January.
Once complete, the electrification and power supply upgrade will enable the new Aurora trains to operate on electric power south from Market Harborough when they are introduced into service in 2023. By then, we hope the decision to continue beyond Market Harborough will have been made, in accordance with the Government’s promise in its Integrated Rail Plan, published on 18th November 2021, to electrify the whole Midland Main Line.
Early sign of progress: an electrification contractor’s road-rail vehicle heads south past the former level crossing at Glebe Road, Little Bowden, on Saturday 11th December, the day electrification work officially started.
Photo: Steve Jones
Getting ready: the electrification site compound at Braybrooke on 11th December. Overhead line supports can be seen on the left, stored ready for installation. In the middle foreground is one of the first mast support piles, freshly installed, while in the middle distance is a temporary ramp for road-rail vehicles to gain access to the track.
Pictures: Steve Jones
The electrification of the railway between Bedford and Corby is due to come into service with the new timetable on 15th May. There has long been a desire to see the electrification of the whole Midland Main Line, and the first stage of that, from Kettering to Market Harborough, is now in the early stages of implementation. Vegetation clearance along the lineside from Kettering is well under way, with trees being either felled or trimmed back where they are too close to the line and the future overhead wires. Work on the new substation that will feed the electrification has also started. This is near Braybrooke, where the National Grid high-voltage power line crosses the railway. The substation is due to be completed by autumn 2022, in time for the electrification itself to be installed.
Clearing the way. Contractors trimming back the lineside vegetation south of Market
Harborough station in preparation for the extension of electrification from Kettering.
Photo: Steve Jones
EMR and Network Rail have notified stakeholders including Harborough Rail Users that the major timetable change planned for December 2020, when the Corby electrification was due to open, has been deferred until May 2021. This comes as no surprise; it is a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected:
EMR also advise that there are 'challenges for the successful introduction of an improved EMR Regional timetable in December 2021. Work is ongoing to understand the knock-on implications for these long anticipated changes'.
There was a major consultation earlier in 2020 on the December 2020 timetable plans and HRU submitted a detailed response. See https://www.harborough-rail.org.uk/home/harborough-rail-users-respond-to-december-2020-timetable-consultation for more.
Send me a wire. Construction teams work on the platform extensions at Wellingborough on 11th March 2020 under the new overhead electrification, in preparation for electric services between London and Corby. These were due to start in December 2020 but the coronavirus pandemic has pushed this back to May 2021, with implications for the timetable changes planned for the whole Midland Main Line. (Picture: Steve Jones)
At the 2019 AGM on 11th November, Harborough Rail Users reviewed the past year’s activities and set the scene for campaign topics for the next year.
A busy year
The past year has particularly busy, dominated by the major reconstruction of the station and the franchise changeover from Stagecoach East Midlands Trains (EMT) to Abellio East Midlands Railway (EMR). Debate has continued about electrification, though we now have greater clarity about future rolling stock for the line. HRU has also dealt both with day-to-day matters concerning the train service, and much longer-term matters such as the recent proposal to reopen the line to Northampton.
Again, HRU has played a full part in consultations and has maintained contact with relevant organisations including the rail industry, local authorities, local elected representatives, and transport user representative groups. The willingness of EMT, EMR, Network Rail and others to meet and discuss various matters was noted, as was the continued support of the local MP and councillors in pressing for further improvements. The HRU Committee were thanked for all their help and support throughout the year.
Campaign priorities for the year ahead