Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
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about half of the present services between St Pancras and Nottingham, are approaching life-expiry and are due to be withdrawn soon.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.
Picture: East Midlands Railway
Regular readers will recall that EMR have ordered a completely new fleet of 33 five-car Class 810 Hitachi bi-mode electric + diesel trains for the InterCity services between St Pancras and Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield, including our services here at Market Harborough.
(See https://www.harborough-rail.org.uk/home/category/rolling-stock/2 and scroll down to 30/7/2019).
Rather imaginatively, EMR then announced a public competition to come up with a class-name for these trains, like the new ‘Azuma’ trains on the LNER services out of King’s Cross.
More than 2,000 entries were submitted, and result of the competition was announced on 26th October 2020, Aurora. To quote EMR: ‘Aurora is the name of the Roman goddess of the dawn, representing the new start Aurora provides for the railway serving the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. It is also inspired by the Northern Lights, created by the transfer of the sun’s solar energy – matching Aurora’s ability to run under electric power.’
Construction is due to start later this year, with the first trains starting mainline testing in mid-2022, before entering passenger service in early 2023. Here’s hoping they will provide a new dawn, especially as the railway and the nation recover after the Covid-19 crisis - and that solar-powered electricity will be available for them at least as far as Market Harborough!
More can be found at: https://www.railbusinessdaily.com/a-new-dawn-east-midlands-railway-new-intercity-fleet-to-be-named-aurora/
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.