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 It also means the bus link between Wellingborough and Bedford can be withdrawn.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 have announced a revised timetable from Monday 18th January, with some service reductions. The main reason is reduced availability of traincrew staff because of Covid-related absences. EMR have understandably made the decision that it is better to have a reduced timetable than to have ad hoc cancellations day by day.
For Market Harborough, the weekday timetable is little changed; the only changes are that the 19:40 runs only to Sheffield, not Leeds, and from 1st February the 20:55 from Nottingham to St Pancras, calling at Market Harborough at 21:42, no longer runs. However, on Saturdays, numerous trains between Nottingham and St Pancras no longer run, and our 07:33 to York is also withdrawn. Other trains that are still running may have reduced numbers of carriages.
EMR Regional services, none of which serve Market Harborough, see varying reductions from Monday 26th January.
EMR state that: "We will continue to keep these changes under review, alongside the impact of Covid on the availability of our staff. As a minimum it is envisaged this timetable will run until the national lockdown is lifted and at which point, we will look to move towards reinstatement to today’s (pre-18th January) service level as soon as is possible."
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)
East Midlands Railway (EMR) have issued as update on social distancing and other precautions as the lock-down is slightly eased and passenger numbers may rise as a result. Some Government restrictions were eased on 1st June, and non-essential retail shops can re-open on 15th June, so activity is taking place across the rail network to ensure proper precautions are taken. EMR advise that all their 91 stations plus their train fleet display social distancing guidance, and staff have been briefed. Non-essential travel continues to be discouraged, however. Further information can be found on EMR’s website at https://www.eastmidlandsrailway.co.uk/covid-19.
Our timetable at Market Harborough is back to near-normal levels and can be viewed here.
Following revisions to the Government's advice on the coronavirus lockdown, EMR have announced changes to train services from Monday 18th May. This is part of national step-up of services after the severe reductions that have been place since March. However, the advice is still that all passengers continue to follow Government travel advice and only travel if it is absolutely necessary.
The timetable pattern for the Midland Main Line, which serves Market Harborough, is as follows from 18th May until further notice:
2 Trains Per Hour each way between London and Sheffield:
Pending the publication of the actual timetables on the EMR website, we assume the Nottingham trains will all call at Market Harborough. Calling patterns may differ during AM and PM peak periods.
A consequence of the changed timetable from Monday 18th May is that the peak-time calls at Bedford and Luton, which had been temporarily reinstated since March, will again be withdrawn and the bus connections from Wellingborough reinstated. The reason is that social distancing is easier if Bedford and Luton peak passengers use Thameslink rather than EMR services; the tiny numbers likely to use the Wellingborough buses mean that distancing between passengers is not a problem.
Circa 80% of services will operate Monday to Saturday, with selected off-peak reductions compared to normal.
Services on all routes will operate throughout the normal hours of operation, with early and late services reinstated on routes where limited opening hours are currently in place.
Liverpool-Norwich services will re-commence operating between Sheffield and Liverpool, with a small number of off-peak cancellations on the route. Services between Nottingham and Worksop will operate hourly, calling at all intermediate stations.
Sunday services will continue to operate at current reduced levels.
Along with all train operators, EMR are introducing various social distancing measures to protect passengers and staff so far as is possible during this time. These measures include new signs at stations and on trains advising passengers about keeping two metres apart; some changes to entrances and exits at larger stations; marked out queuing arrangements at booking offices and ticket barriers; encouragement to use contactless card payments if buying tickets at stations; cordoning-off adjacent seats and ticket machines at stations; removal of leaflets; and regular cleaning of 'touch surfaces'. However, they acknowledge that it is up to passengers to conduct themselves sensibly; train company staff cannot physically enforce the rules for everyone and we all have a part to play. On-train catering and seat reservations remain suspended. EMR advise that all the procedures and rules remain under constant review and are subject to change.
Services have been running well so far during the lock-down period, with high levels of punctuality achieved. However, though numbers are beginning increase, there has been a massive reduction in usage of our trains; the picture below shows the car park at Market Harborough completely empty, though admittedly it was on a Sunday, 3rd May.