Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
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.
Every year, excellence and achievements in the rail industry are celebrated in the National Rail Awards, the ‘Railway Oscars’. There are numerous categories reflecting achievements in railway operations, customer service, business innovation and many others. One of these is Infrastructure Achievement of the Year and the 2020 winner was contractor Amey Rail for the Market Harborough Line Speed and Station Improvement project. This is a major accolade and we congratulate the teams involved in transforming our station at track and platform level plus the new car park.
Despite the reduction in the train service during the coronavirus emergency - or perhaps taking advantage of the reduced numbers of people travelling - work on the railway continues. On Monday 6th April, equipment was delivered to the forecourt at Market Harborough station and work has started on the cycle hub. This is a long-awaited improvement in facilities for cyclists at the station and we look forward to its completion. In the interim, some temporary cycle parking remains in the forecourt, roughly where the yellow dump-truck was in the photo below. Though we very much welcome the cycle hub, Harborough Rail Users have asked that provision also be made for occasional users who do not want to join the cycle hub scheme, so that they have a secure and sheltered space for their bikes.
The subway and the south end of Platform 2 at Market Harborough opened as planned on Monday 17th February 2020. When the new platforms opened on 3rd June 2019, only the northern half of southbound Platform 2 was complete. The southern end was then built across the land occupied by the old track layout. This also meant that the subway between the two platforms remained closed. It had been intended to open these along with the car park extension on 15th December, but the necessary approvals had not been signed off.
However, they are now open and, for the first time in its history, Market Harborough has full-length platforms on both main line tracks. Gone are the days when people alighting from a southbound train had to walk forward to be sure of being next to a door by the platform.
Some finishing off is still needed. For example, the short projecting canopy at the top of the subway steps awaits its roof glazing; installation of this was prevented by Storm Dennis over the preceding weekend. However, credit is due to the contractors, who continued with the main work despite the storm and ensured that the platform and subway were open for use with the first train on Monday.
Opening day, Monday 17th February 2020. The 10:26 HST to St Pancras comes to a stand at the south end of Platform 2 at Market Harborough, luxuriating in the knowledge that the entire train is accommodated at the full-length platform. Other work is still planned at Market Harborough, including new toilets to replace those in the architecturally challenged 1970s building at the left of the picture.
HRU Chair Steve Jones met Network Rail’s Communications Manager Celia Davis at Market Harborough station on 10th February, to discuss current topics for the station and the line. These included the subway and full length of platform 2, which have remained closed since the new platforms opened in June 2019.
We discussed the extended car park, which is a major improvement, though HRU feel that better provision is needed for short-stay parking, especially for those dropping off or picking up passengers from that side of the station. We await further information on the planned further improvements including permanent toilets, plus provision for landscaping around the station.
We also discussed the Station Road bridge in Great Bowden, where local residents have expressed concern about the narrow footway since the bridge was modified to improve its protection from damage by road vehicles. The local authorities are also looking into this.
HRU were later notified that the subway and platform 2 have now been approved for opening on Monday 17th February 2020.