Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
HRU Chair Steve Jones met EMT's Stakeholder Manager Laura Etheridge at Market Harborough station on 13th May. The main purpose of the meeting was to consider the forthcoming six-day blockade at Market Harborough, when the station will be closed to allow the new track alignment and platforms to be connected up. We discussed the arrangements for replacement buses, including the need for earlier first buses to Leicester and Kettering and a later last bus from Kettering to allow a later last connecting train departure from St Pancras than 22:00. (Three later trains are scheduled, but no onward bus for these from Kettering to Market Harborough.)
Other matters discussed included:
Steve Jones, Chair of HRU, attended this ‘business breakfast’ event for user groups and other stakeholders at the Belmont Hotel in Leicester. EMT updated us on management changes; the May 2018 timetable; the Derby station remodelling scheme planned for this summer; the train fleet including modifications to the stock used on the rural routes plus maintenance of the HSTs; work at stations such as new ticket gates at Leicester; and EMT’s extensive community rail activities. One query that was raised was the relatively late start to the rail-replacement bus services this coming weekend, 28-29th April, when the line is closed for engineering work. EMT undertook to look into this.
We are grateful to EMT for their hospitality and their willingness to discuss the various developments across their network.
Four members of the HRU committee met with EMT at the company’s Derby headquarters on 15th February, at EMT’s invitation. The purpose of the meeting was to review the timetable due to come into effect on 20th May alongside the next phase of the Thameslink upgrade programme. The increased Thameslink service puts pressure on track capacity and that means modifications to EMT services, including removal of Bedford and Luton (Town) calls from their peak-direction trains. For more detail, see 16th December 2017 entry below.
We had a very open and useful discussion with EMT’s Duncan Cale, Stakeholder Manager, and Michael Webb, Head of Train Planning & Access. We reviewed the planned timetable alongside the present one, including:
EMT noted our concerns and aspirations and, though their room for manoeuvre in the May 2018 timetable is limited, they undertook to consider the matters discussed. This plus operating experience will be considered in developing the December 2018 and May 2019 timetables.
We are grateful to EMT for the opportunity to discuss these matters so openly with them.
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.
Network Rail held its third public information event today, 27th June 2017, on the plans for the realignment of the line through Market Harborough. This took place at the station so as to catch the eye of users of the station; previous such events have been at the town's market hall. The latest outline plans were on display and staff from Network Rail and East Midlands Trains were available to answer questions and receive comments. A planning application for the scheme has been submitted to Harborough District Council. The new car park, on the east side of the line, has already been approved and work is due to begin in July on this as the first phase. The old goods shed (in the background to the right of the engine in the photo above!) will be demolished and the first 300 of an eventual 500 parking spaces provided. Once that is done, the existing car park on the west side of the line will close, releasing the land for the construction of the new straight track alignment and platforms while the existing railway and platforms continue to operate alongside. This will include the new Access for All footbridge and lifts. Once complete, in summer 2019, there will be a short closure of the line to connect it all up. After that, the car park will be extended over the land occupied by the present track and platforms to give the additional 200 spaces.
Harborough Rail Users broadly welcomes the plan as it will give the station its much-needed new platforms, larger car park and improved accessibility. However, we remain concerned about the limited shelter on the platforms (though this is better than previously proposed) and the lack of full accessibility from the booking office in the main building to the platforms. We await specific final designs of other aspects such as the promised 'cycle hub' in the station forecourt and we have called for other modest enhancements including a coffee kiosk and better shelter at the entrance to the platforms from the new car park.
Network Rail has applied to Harborough District Council for planning permission for the scheme (except for the car park, which was approved in May). Details can be seen at https://pa2.harborough.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=ORFYZ3HW0HU00