Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
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.
Abellio EMR, who take over the East Midlands Railway franchise on 18th August, have today confirmed that they have ordered a complete new fleet of inter-city trains for the Midland Main Line, which serves Market Harborough. The £400m contract is for a fleet of 33 five-car trains, which will start operating in 2022. They will regularly operate in 10-car formations (two units coupled together) and will operate on electric power where possible and diesel elsewhere. The trains will be built by Hitachi in County Durham and are the latest version of a type of train entering service with numerous other operators across the country including GWR and LNER.
An image of the new train appears below, courtesy of Abellio and Hitachi.