The Government has got directly involved in the ambitious plans for Market Harborough’s improved railway station, with a specific mention in the latest Budget.
The Budget 2016 PolicyPaper, under the section “Midlands Engine For Growth” says the Government will allocate £1m directly to the station scheme.
The money has been earmarked for the creation of a new station car park on the opposite side of the tracks from the current one, and its expansion by 200 spaces.
The money shows how important the scheme - particularly the straightening and speeding-up of the line through the area - has become not only to Harborough, but to the towns and cities to the north.
Project supervisor Kevin Newman explained: “Cities like Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham are also interested in what happens at Market Harborough station, at least as far as improved track speed and journey times go.”
Three of the newly-created Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) which consist of local authorities and businesses could bid for extra cash for the project, to bridge a current £9m funding gap. The three interested LEPs are centred in Leicester, Nottingham/Derby and Sheffield.
It was the straightening of the S-bend through Harborough, and another bend at Great Bowden, that prompted the whole £46m Market Harborough station scheme.
The straightened line, which will reduce journey times to all points north of Market Harborough to and from London, will go through the present station car park.
This means moving the main car park across the tracks, accessed by an entrance on the opposite side of the railway bridge.
The length of the platforms at the station will be doubled, and the awkward step up to trains reduced.
The station will also be wheelchair and pushchair friendly, with “step free” access to trains.
There may be a small station building on the opposite sides of the track too, but Network Rail say the big message they took from the “meet the public” event at the Market Hall in February was that local people like the current station building, and want it to be retained as part of any new station configuration.
Work on the whole project should start around September 2017, and be completed by March 2019.