Harborough rail users step up campaign for upgrade

District councillor Phil Knowles at Harborough train station
District councillor Phil Knowles at Harborough train station

Rail users are stepping up their fight for train station upgrades in Harborough as part of Network Rail’s latest investment plan.

Network Rail is seeking views on its investment plans for what it calls the Control Period Five, up to March 2019.

Included in its draft plan is the electrification of the Midland Mainline, which serves Harborough, plus other improvements along the line to provide greater capacity for freight journeys and longer passenger trains.

But, Harborough Rail Users’ group says the draft does not include the long-outstanding straightening of the train line through Harborough station, off St Mary’s Road, and rebuilding of the platforms, which are too short, too low and do not meet accessibility standards.

The group has submitted a formal response to Network Rail welcoming the improvements but expressing disappointed the straightening of the track through Harborough does not appear in its draft.

Co-chairman of the rail users’ group Steve Jones said: “It really is unacceptable that accessibility – especially to the southbound platform – remains so poor.

“Many people struggle to get to or from the platform and on or off the trains.

“Wheelchair-users even have to be wheeled across the track of what is a busy inter-city mainline.”

Meanwhile, district councillor Phil Knowles is calling on transport minister Baroness Kramer to visit Harborough station to see the problems for herself.

In a letter to her, Cllr Knowles said: “We corresponded some weeks ago... you may recall I invited you to visit and view the site first-hand.

“Sadly, you we unable to accept my invitation.

“The matter is again being raised by the local rail users’ group.

“I spoke with them last week and agreed to pass the correspondence onto you and to renew the invitation I made for you to come to Harborough to meet with a cross-section of interested parties.

“This is to ensure that you have the fullest possible details before the decisions are made.”

Harborough wheelchair-user and disability rights campaigner Anne Pridmore said: “There is a need for a lift over the line – taking out curves will not assist wheelchair-users.

“When boarding the train it is dependent on how the train is formed and if first-class is at the front.

“On a journey at the end of November I alerted staff about the need to be at the front of the train if the first-class was at the front and an awful argument occurred.

“The need to travel at the front is because it is too steep to get down the ramp. If this is not allowed you have to go on to Leicester.

“Under the Equality Act this has to be allowed under reasonable adjustment.”

Rachel Lowe, for Network Rail, said: “We have a steering group of local stakeholders and have funding to complete feasibility work for the line speed improvement.

“A decision on what might be done is expected in the summer, though the business case would require support of local authorities and stakeholders.

“A decision on platform extensions is expected in the same time frame.

“In terms of accessibility I am told a bid has been put to Department for Transport for the Access For All fund for consideration and we await that decision in the coming months.”