May 2018 timetable22nd May 2018

The much-heralded new timetable came into force on Sunday 20th May, with the full effect for most people on Monday 21st.  It is the result of the introduction of the next phase of the Thameslink upgrade - itself not without controversy - and brings significant changes to EMT's main line services.

All timetables are inevitably a compromise but until the programme of upgrading work on the Midland Main Line is completed in 2020, there are some significant adverse effects for our services.  We lose our peak-direction peak-time calls at Bedford and Luton, with a bus connection from Wellingborough to Bedford.  Passengers to Luton can double-back via Luton Airport Parkway.  However, few of our evening peak trains call at Wellingborough, so the bus is of little use for people travelling from Bedford to Market Harborough.  As a compromise pending further timetable changes, we have called for a similar double-back fare option via Luton Airport Parkway.

We also lose some connectivity with Thameslink stations north of London and there are big gaps in local connections between Market Harborough and Kettering.  Harborough Rail Users have raised these points with EMT, who have undertaken to keep the timetable under review and see what improvements can be made at the next revision, in December 2018.  

Meeting with franchise bidder Abellio at the station: 25th April 201826th Apr 2018

Following a meeting between franchise bidder Abellio and Harborough MP Neil O'Brien on 9th March, at which HRU was represented, Abellio offered a second meeting with the HRU Committee and this took place at the station on 25th April.  

We discussed the station and HRU's aspirations for it including a lift between the booking office and the platforms; toilets and canopies on both platforms; facilities for cyclists; and the potential for greater use of the main building for community-related purposes. Abellio listened to these ideas positively and undertook to include as many of them in its proposals as it could.

On a related but different note, on the day before, 24th April, bidder First + Trenitalia pulled out of the East Midlands competition to concentrate on their bid for the West Coast Partnership franchise.  That left three bidders, with Abellio and Arriva plus present operator, Stagecoach.  We now await the Invitation to Tender, due to be issued by the DfT in May, to see what the specification for our train service will be.


East Midlands Trains Stakeholder Breakfast, Leicester: 23rd April 201826th Apr 2018

Steve Jones, Chair of HRU, attended this ‘business breakfast’ event for user groups and other stakeholders at the Belmont Hotel in Leicester.  EMT updated us on management changes; the May 2018 timetable; the Derby station remodelling scheme planned for this summer; the train fleet including modifications to the stock used on the rural routes plus maintenance of the HSTs; work at stations such as new ticket gates at Leicester; and EMT’s extensive community rail activities. One query that was raised was the relatively late start to the rail-replacement bus services this coming weekend, 28-29th April, when the line is closed for engineering work.  EMT undertook to look into this.

We are grateful to EMT for their hospitality and their willingness to discuss the various developments across their network.


Meeting with Network Rail at the station: 11th April 201812th Apr 2018

On Wednesday 11th April, three members of the HRU Committee met with Network Rail's Project Sponsor for the Market Harborough upgrade scheme at the station for an update on the project following the collapse earlier in the year of main contractor Carillion.  In essence:

  • Network Rail is finalising contractual arrangements for construction giant Amey to take over and continue the project, including the track and platform work, to much the same timescale as previously planned.  Decisions remain to be made about exact timing, and the car park work has been delayed partly by the recent severe weather. 
  • The scope of the project remains unchanged.  
  • Phase 1 of the new car park is nearing completion and is due to open in a few weeks' time.  The approach road is largely complete apart from some finishing work such as fencing and finishing the steel piling on the embankment between the road and the station platform. Posters advising of forthcoming changes to car parking appeared around the station at the beginning of last week..  
  • We looked at the safety aspects, both for cars and pedestrians, of the junction between the new access road and Rockingham Road.  The road splays have been widened out and visibility is improved.  However, the railway bridge makes it difficult to do anything more radical with the junction.  Nonetheless, it will improve things at the present multiple junction between the present access road, Great Bowden Road and Rockingham Road.
  • 'Harborough in Bloom', who have 'adopted' the station and carried out imaginative planting schemes around it for a number of years, intend to undertake planting to enhance the appearance of the hard landscaping around the station and the new car park.
  • Discussions continue behind the scenes regarding the additional enhancements to the station that we in HRU are seeking: the lift, toilets and canopies.  Both the DfT and Network Rail need to undertake review work on the business case and value for money for these and to give a clearer idea on their implications on the wider scheme.  We are grateful to Neil O'Brien MP for his support in seeking the best possible station for Market Harborough.

Meeting with franchise bidder Abellio and Neil O'Brien MP: 9th March 201810th Mar 2018

Train operator Abellio, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dutch state railway operator NS, has been added to the DfT’s shortlist of bidders for the East Midlands franchise. Their Bid Director Simon Pready, who lives locally in Rothwell, requested a meeting with Harborough MP Neil O’Brien, and HRU Chair Steve Jones was invited to join them.  We met at the station on 9th March.  The weather was cold and wet, which gave a good opportunity to demonstrate how bleak the platforms are - and may still be after the intended reconstruction! 

Abellio are meeting interested parties throughout the franchise area and are gathering information that will help them in preparing their bid.  They were in no position to set out their own plans or proposals.  We discussed our aspirations for the train service, new rolling stock, the station enhancements and the Midland Main Line upgrade.  With this meeting, we have now met three of the four shortlisted potential bidders.

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