Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
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 It also means the bus link between Wellingborough and Bedford can be withdrawn.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)
As the InterCity 125 HSTs near the end of their long careers on the Midland Main Line, EMR have taken the pleasing step of repainting power car 43102 in the stylish British Rail InterCity ‘Swallow’ livery. This power car, partnered with sister 43159, achieved the world speed record for a diesel train, on a test run between Northallerton and York on 1st November 1987. The record, 148.5mph, still stands.
HSTs have been running on our line for 39 years but this comes to an end with the timetable change in May 2021. The introduction of electric trains on the Corby services and a reshuffle of the Meridian fleet along with the recently introduced Class 180 trains means the HSTs can be retired. With the current timetable reduced because of Covid, only two HSTs are currently in use each day. It seems incredible now to think that they were built in the mid- to late-1970s as a temporary stop-gap pending development of the tilting Advanced Passenger Train (APT), and are still working with several train operators over 40 years later! They transformed long-distance travel in Britain and they will be much missed. 43102, however, is destined for dignified retirement at the National Railway Museum in York.
Design classic: HST power car 43102, freshly repainted in BR Intercity ‘Swallow’ livery, waits at Market Harborough with the 16:29 to Nottingham (15:34 ex-St Pancras) on 24th February 2021. After withdrawal from EMR service by May 2021, it is understood to be destined for the National Railway Museum in York. Photo: Steve Jones
Record-breaker: The nameplate on 43102, commemorating its achievement back in 1987. Photo: Steve Jones
Alongside the part-electrification of the Midland Main Line, EMR is replacing its entire InterCity fleet with new Hitachi bi-mode trains, which are due to enter service in 2023. (See this for more: https://www.harborough-rail.org.uk/home/new-emr-intercity-train-fleet-to-be-named-aurora). However, the InterCity 125 High-Speed Trains (HSTs), which form about half of the present services between St Pancras and Nottingham, are approaching life-expiry and are due to be withdrawn soon. Therefore, as an interim measure, EMR have received four Class 180 diesel multiple units transferred from Hull Trains. The first of these entered service today, 14th December, on a small number of services to and from St Pancras. This does not mean the end of the HSTs just yet, however, but there will be fewer of them.
Purple thing: a Class 180 train forms the 15:26 Market Harborough to St Pancras (14:45 from Nottingham) on Monday 14th December 2020, the first day in service with EMR for the type. (Picture: Steve Jones)
The Midland Pullman was an iconic luxury train of the early 1960s and regularly ran through Market Harborough on its journeys between London and Manchester. It last ran in 1966, and sadly none of the vehicles survived into preservation.
However, the modern diesel-electric air-conditioned train bore some similarity with the familiar InterCity 125 High Speed Trains, HSTs, which have been the mainstay of our train service at Market Harborough since 1982. As these, too, approach the end of their careers, it is pleasing that one of the type has been acquired by Locomotive Services Ltd, operator of heritage locomotives on the national network, as an excursion train. They have refurbished it as authentically as possible into the style of the original Blue Pullmans, for use as a tour train. Its inaugural run was delayed by Covid but took place on Saturday 12th December 2020, on a figure-of-eight circuit from St Pancras via Market Harborough, bypassing Sheffield, to the outskirts of Manchester, and back via Crewe, Nuneaton, Leicester, Oakham, Harringworth viaduct and Corby to St Pancras.
Despite murky weather, quite a few people turned out at Market Harborough station to see it come through a few minutes later than its booked time of 10:18. It is due to call at Market Harborough on Saturday 16th January on a tour to the Settle and Carlisle line.