Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
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)
Changes in accessibility and other regulations came into effect on 1st January, but our ex-EMT high speed trains (HSTs) do not fully meet them. Old trains, built when standards were less exacting than they are now, are a problem for several operators across the country; EMR inherited a non-compliant fleet of HSTs. As a new fleet is on order, it is not worth EMR spending major amounts to bring them up to standard.
There will be some interim changes in rolling stock while we await the new fleet. The main one for us is the transfer of some other HSTs from East Coast Main Line operator LNER. Though of similar vintage to our existing ones, these were heavily refurbished in 2016 and, though still not fully compliant, they better meet modern standards. The Department for Transport has given a temporary derogation to allow these fleets to continue in service for the next few months.
As they are not intended for long-term use, the ex-LNER (ex-Virgin) trains will retain their present red livery, though they will be branded for EMR. They feature better wheelchair space and accessible toilets (in coach E), as well as plug sockets in both first and standard class, better seats, plus audio and visual passenger information displays. The first one of the nine we are due to get was due to enter service with EMR on 10th February 2020.
No, not a member of the peerage; rather, the LMS Princess Coronation class locomotive of that name, no. 6233, built in 1938. She is now preserved in main-line operating condition and is a regular performer on railtours, such as between Ealing and York via Kettering and the famous Harringworth viaduct. However, on Saturday 21st December 2019, she became the first steam locomotive to travel through the realigned track and platforms at Market Harborough, passing through on time at 12:39. She was on her way from her base at Southall, West London, to the Midland Railway Centre at Butterley, Derbyshire, hauling only her two support coaches. Nonetheless, she made a fine sight as she passed through at speed, exchanging greetings with the HST - another main-line classic - that was forming the slightly delayed 12:26 to St Pancras on the opposite platform. (Photo: Bill 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
East Midlands Trains have decorated one of their HSTs with a special livery as they approach the end of their franchise. It proudly proclaims the 11 years of the franchise, and the train was then used for a commemorative 'farewell' tour on a circuitous route from Leeds to Derby via North London on 10th August. It passed through Market Harborough at 11:10 on its way to London, but bypassed both St Pancras and Kings Cross before heading back via Peterborough and Grantham.
The pictures below show (left) the train approaching Market Harborough on its special run, and (right) a few days later at Nottingham.