Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
Newly decorated ‘feature wall’ in the main waiting room on Platform 1.
Photo: Steve Jones
An informal meeting was held in Market Harborough on 24th March between Laura Etheridge, EMR Stakeholder Manager, George Selby, EMR Lead Business Development Manager (on secondment to Stakeholder Engagement Team), and Steve Jones, Chair of Harborough Rail Users and Secretary of Railfuture East Midlands, and Phil Thomas, Chair of Railfuture East Midlands. The aim was a general catch-up on current topics for EMR, including those of particular relevance to Market Harborough.
Among many matters discussed were:
On 26th November, LMS Pacific 46233 Duchess of Sutherland came through Market Harborough on a special from Ealing Broadway to York and back. Hauling a long train of maroon-liveried and Pullman coaches, she made a fine sight – despite being piloted by a diesel locomotive.
The return run came through at 20:35. By this time, darkness shrouded the train as it stormed though the station, taking a run at the gradient up Desborough bank. The clouds of white steam reflected the glow of the engine’s fire, giving the illusion of flames leaping and dancing above the cab. Rather atmospheric!
Tragically, a strike by ASLEF meant that EMR were running no services at all that day (apart from the 00:39 to Derby, which was really the previous evening’s train.) This special was therefore the only passenger train through Market Harborough on 26th November. In turn, this meant that all passenger trains though our station that day were the steam hauled*; the first time this has happened since 1957!
* Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and ignore the supporting diesel locomotive!
LMS Pacific 46233 Duchess of Sutherland hustles a long train through Market Harborough a few minutes late at 09:17 on a special from Ealing Broadway to York on Saturday 26th November.
Picture: Steve Jones
Market Harborough station was experiencing untypically wintry weather on Saturday 27th November when LMS Pacific No 6233 Duchess of Sutherland came through. She was hauling The Yuletide Express from Ealing Broadway to York on what turned out to be a stormy day. The return run through Market Harborough was slightly delayed, but it was good to see the engine in darkness, working hard to recover lost time.
Sunday 16th May saw the commencement of the new timetable, with the standard weekday pattern of services starting on Monday 17th. The biggest change is on the Corby services, which become a largely self-contained service of electric trains branded 'EMR Connect'. It runs twice an hour in each direction between Corby and London St Pancras, calling at Kettering, Wellingborough, Bedford, Luton and Luton Airport Parkway. In doing so, it also serves as the ‘Luton Airport Express’, complementing similar shuttles for the other London airports. It also relieves the Intercity services, which serve Market Harborough, of their intermediate calls south of Kettering. With a few peak-time exceptions, our trains therefore nearly all call at Kettering only on their way to and from London. This gives a half-hourly connection to all the main intermediate stations, addressing concerns we have expressed about gaps in the timetable from Kettering in particular. It also means the bus link between Wellingborough and Bedford can be withdrawn.
Blue sparks: A Class 360 electric EMR Connect train at Corby, on the official ‘launch’ day, Monday 17th May, though they had been running on Sunday 16th. EMR Connect serves the intermediate stations south of Kettering, enabling Market Harborough’s EMR Intercity services to run non-stop between Kettering and London.
Photo: Steve Jones
The basic daytime pattern is now from Market Harborough to London at xx:26 and xx57 each hour (with minor variations), and roughly xx:03 and xx:32 to Leicester and Nottingham.
There are other improvements, including an earlier first train into London, a more even spread of services out of London in the evening peak, and a later last train south from Derby and Leicester in the evenings.
However, with few exceptions, we lose our non-stop trains to and from London, and direct services to Luton Airport Parkway. We also would like to see an earlier first train north on a Sunday morning than the present 10:29.
We also lose our HSTs; replaced by Meridians released by the electric trains on the Corby route, plus the small fleet of Class 180 units transferred a few months ago from Hull Trains.
Sadly, the Saturday through train to York no longer runs. However, if you fancy a slightly different mini-excursion, you can take a weekday lunchtime round trip from Kettering via Corby and Oakham to Melton Mowbray and back. This gives the opportunity to travel over the iconic Welland Viaduct at Harringworth. However, it does not run on Wednesdays!
The full timetable is available here on EMR’s website.
EMR were clearly not going to let the demise of the HSTs pass unnoticed. Not only had they repainted HST power-car 43102 in BR InterCity 'Swallow' livery (see post for 24/02/2021 below), on 14th April they revealed 43274 repainted very smartly in their deep purple house-style. Considering the design of the HST dates back to 1975, it carried the livery remarkably well. The pictures below show it at the head of the 16:29 from Market Harborough to Nottingham (15:34 from St Pancras) on 16th April 2021.
Speed King: HST power-car 43274 in the EMR deep purple livery awaits departure from Market Harborough with 16:29 to Nottingham on 16th April 2021.
(Photos: Steve Jones)