Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
The Government’s Office of Rail and Road (ORR) publishes annual data on rail passenger numbers. Albeit some time after the end of the reporting year, the ORR published figures for 2019-20 on 1st December 2020. The messages for Market Harborough are mixed: a continued trend of modest growth for most of the year, but a drastic fall in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. To reflect this, the ORR has published two sets of figures for every station on the national network: one for the standard April - March reporting year, and one for March - February, to show the underlying trend before Covid.
Market Harborough's totals were as follows:
The usage data for all stations and franchised or equivalent train operators can be found on the ORR website at: https://dataportal.orr.gov.uk/station-usage.
Not many takers. An empty carriage on the 10:31 Market Harborough to Nottingham train on 25th August 2020.
Picture: Steve Jones
The 2020 Harborough Rail Users AGM took place on 28th November. It was held online on Zoom because of the Covid pandemic.
It has been a most unusual year because of the pandemic, which has been very challenging for the railway. EMR and Network Rail have worked hard to maintain as good a service as they have; significant cutbacks in late March being restored to give almost a full service for Market Harborough by September. Nonetheless, HRU activity has continued, with meetings early in the year associated with further work on the station, and much email correspondence and telephone discussions on a number of topics since, and communication with EMR and Network Rail has remained good. We have also had contact with local councillors and the MP regarding the station, and fares policy.
The past year has seen the opening of the car park extension and the cycle hub, the closure of the coffee shop, and liaison with Market Harborough in Bloom regarding their role as station adopters. However, we still await new toilets and platform canopies as well as a decision on electrification. Interim arrangements with rolling stock are clearer, as we await the new bi-mode ‘Aurora’ trains in 2023.
The AGM saw the existing Committee and officers re-elected. The following campaign topics for HRU for the year ahead were agreed:
A design classic on borrowed time. An HST, in the old East Midlands Trains livery but still looking very smart, departs Market Harborough with the 10:31 to Nottingham on 26th November 2020.
Picture: Steve Jones
The long-awaited new cycle hub at Market Harborough station finally opened on Monday 16th November. It was jointly funded by the Department for Transport, East Midlands Railway and Harborough District Council through a programme managed by cycling promotion group Sustrans. It provides secure, weather-proof parking space for up to 140 bicycles. Users need a fob ‘key’, application forms for which are obtainable from the booking office at the station; there is a £10 deposit which is returnable when the fob is returned. The keys are time-limited to one year, though can be renewed. This is to prevent unused keys remaining in circulation indefinitely.
The location of the cycle hub building in the station forecourt has attracted some local controversy and HRU were involved in discussions about this. Other suggested locations in the new or old car park areas were ruled out, either for road safety reasons or because the land in question was not available. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the new facility is a major improvement on the rather ramshackle arrangements previously available, which were also vulnerable to cycle theft. Indeed, a man recently pleaded guilty to stealing four bicycles from the station in 2019.
A few cycle parking ‘pods’ remain in place outside the cycle hub building to provide bike parking for occasional users who may not wish to obtain a fob key.
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/
Before the old platforms at Market Harborough were demolished, two old British Railways platform trolleys served as bases for decorative planting by Market Harborough in Bloom (MHiB, who are the approved 'adopters' of Market Harborough station). They made an attractive display but disappeared prior to the rebuilding of the station. However, they were not taken away, but were dumped in the long grass by the access road to the old car park. There they quietly deteriorated.
However, Network Rail kindly agreed that local volunteers from HRU and MHiB could remove them for repair, with a view to reinstatement somewhere on the rebuilt station as a base for a new planting scheme. The current plan is to place them, once fully restored, on the gravelled area near the steps from the new car park to the southbound platform. Complete with a floral display, they would add a splash of colour to welcome passengers arriving at the station.
The pictures below show the trolleys on 23rd October 2020, just prior to being removed for repair.