Rail Minister lobbied over access and facilities at rebuilt Harborough station16th Nov 2017

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien and HRU Chair Steve Jones met with Paul Maynard MP, the Under Secretary of State for Rail, Accessibility and HS2, on 14th November at the Houses of Parliament.  The meeting had been requested by Neil O'Brien to press the case for proper disabled access to be provided at the rebuilt Market Harborough station plus toilets on the new southbound platform.  The Department for Transport's Planning and Investment Manager for the Midland Main Line was also present.

Rather than go in with a long shopping list, running the risk of everything being lost in the detail, we focused on these two items.  However, the meeting also considered various aspects of the scheme, including the need for sufficient shelter on the platforms, and was very constructive.  Though he is the 'Rail Minister', Paul Maynard acknowledged that he has no powers to direct Network Rail as it is an arm's-length relationship.  However, he did undertake to write to them at senior level, supporting the case for proper disabled access and for toilets on the southbound side.  There is also the possibility that the specification for the next franchise may be a means of seeking additional enhancements to the station.  Franchise bids are assessed much more on quality than used to be the case. 

A further meeting with the Department for Transport and Network Rail at the station is to be arranged.  We hope that these enhancements to what is otherwise a great improvement at the station can be included.  This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring the station fully up to modern standards; let's not waste it!  Watch this space!


Date set for HRU AGM06th Nov 2017

Harborough Rail Users are holding their Annual General Meeting on Thursday 23rd November 2017 at the Roman Way Community Centre, Market Harborough.  The meeting starts at 8:00 pm.

 

As well as electing officers for the group for the forthcoming year, the meeting will consider relevant topics including: 

• The recent consultation on the next East Midlands rail franchise, which is due to start in August 2019.   

• The planned improvements to the station, with the new car park now under construction

• The announcement that electrification of the main line north from Kettering has been cancelled.  The Corby service is to be operated with electric trains but the inter-city service via Market Harborough will have ‘bi-mode’ trains (electric and, probably, diesel). Ironically, the electric power for the Corby service will be supplied from a new substation planned for installation at Braybrooke, which is only just over a mile south of Market Harborough!  It is expected that this means overhead wires to carry the power back along the line to Kettering North Junction.  We would like to see the electrification extended at least for the 'last mile' into Market Harborough. 

 

Anyone who cares about the local rail service, including timetables, train service quality and reliability, fares, access to the station and platforms and the quality of the facilities available, is invited to come along and get involved.


HRU responds to DfT consultation on next East Midlands rail franchise09th Oct 2017

Harborough Rail Users has submitted its response to the Department for Transport's consultation on the next East Midlands rail franchise.  At the last franchise change, Market Harborough was threatened with a severe reduction in its train service.  We campaigned hard to retain two trains an hour - and we succeeded.

This time, the exact nature of the train service is not so clear.  The main proposal is a split between electric 'London commuter' services to Corby and 'inter-city' bi-mode (electric plus probably diesel) trains for the rest of the route, with interchange between the two at Kettering.  Clearly, this is partly a consequence of the decision not to electrify north from Kettering. Quite where this would leave Market Harborough is not made clear.  However, there is much pressure to speed up the journeys between London and Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield.  A risk is that this can only realistically be done by cutting out intermediate station stops.  

During the current East Midlands Trains franchise, Market Harborough has had a good train service of one fast and one stopping service to London each hour, with some additional trains at peak times.  In essence, we want to retain a service of this kind.  We would want to retain the hourly fast trains, which have attracted substantial growth in usage, plus the hourly semi-fast stopping trains that provide good connectivity to other stations along the line.  Though London is the single most important destination, there is also a clear need for a direct service between Leicester, Market Harborough, Kettering, Wellingborough, Bedford and Luton Airport Parkway.  In addition, there should be better connections at Kettering for the Corby service, especially northbound towards both Market Harborough and Leicester, for which the service is particularly poor at present.

We have also called for some enhancements to the planned remodelling of Market Harborough station, especially in terms of disabled access and better waiting shelter and toilets on both new platforms.

We now await the outcome of the consultation.  This is due in April 2018 when the invitation to tender is due to be issued to shortlisted bidders.

 


Meeting with new MP for Harborough04th Sep 2017

We met the newly elected MP for Harborough, Neil O’Brien, at the Harborough District Council offices on 1st September.  He had got in touch with HRU shortly after the election offering to meet and we were very pleased to take up the offer.  We discussed both the station rebuilding scheme and the consultation for next franchise. Accessibility improvements at the station are a priority and we put the case for a lift from the booking office to the new platforms plus better shelter and facilities, especially at the planned new entrance to the southbound platform from the new car park.  We also discussed the recent decision to cancel electrification and the minimum service requirements we seek for the next franchise.  He is plainly keen to support us and we look forward to a fruitful working relationship.


DfT launches East Midlands franchise consultation and scraps electrification of main line north of Kettering24th Jul 2017

Thursday 20th July saw two major announcements by the Department for Transport with significant implications for Market Harborough's train service.  The public consultation for the next franchise was launched and, with it, the planned electrification of the main line north of Kettering was formally abandoned.

 

What is now proposed for delivery by the next train operator is a split of services between 'London Commuter' and 'Intercity'.  There would be an electric commuter service between St Pancras and main stations to Kettering and on to Corby and an intercity service using 'bi-mode' trains for the main line via Market Harborough to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield.  'Bi-mode' means trains that can run on either electric or diesel power, so these would be electric from St Pancras to Kettering and diesel thereafter.  The DfT is selling this as a major improvement based on new technology as well as saving the major cost and disruption that electrification would have caused.  The effect for us in Market Harborough is that our trains will continue to be diesel-operated through our station for the foreseeable future, though they will be electric between Kettering and London.  No details of the actual rolling stock are yet given; this will be for the new operator to sort out with the DfT, though we are told that they will be 'modern, fast, efficient and comfortable'.  Bi-mode trains are currently being built for the Great Western main line, where planned electrification has been similarly curtailed.

 

The franchise consultation proposals make much of the split between electric commuter services to Corby and the bi-mode (diesel for us!) intercity trains on the non-electrified main line.  Nothing is said about Market Harborough itself, though the consultation document seeks a speeding-up of intercity journey times from Nottingham and Sheffield to London 'by up to 20 minutes, by reducing the number of calls to pick up commuters, alongside the line speed improvements' (page 22 of the document).  It would appear from the proposals that this means stations south of Kettering, as these will be served by the new electric service to Corby.  The implication is that our trains would call at Kettering only, then run non-stop to London.  Anyone travelling to, say, Bedford or Luton Airport, would change at Kettering.  However, whether this would apply to all trains or only some of them is not yet known.  The consultation makes clear that there are numerous and varied aspirations for the next franchise, such as a sufficient level of service for Luton Airport.  

 

The overall tone of the document is positive, seeking growth in business and improvements to services.  The questions are about how best to achieve this and do so affordably.

 

We in Harborough Rail Users will be preparing our full response to the consultation, which closes on 11th October.  We will seek to ensure that we retain at least a level of frequency, quality and speed comparable with the service we have now.  We also seek improvements to the timetable to give us later southbound weekday last trains and earlier first trains on Sundays.

See the DfT website for:

What are your views?  Please let Harborough Rail Users know via feedback@harborough-rail.co.uk. 

 


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Harborough MP Neil O’Brien and HRU Chair Steve Jones met with Paul Maynard MP, the Under Secretary of State for Rail, Accessibility and HS2, .. more