Market Harborough rail upgrade back on but four years late

Market Harborough station
Market Harborough station

A plan to electrify the Midlands Mainline Railway to Market Harborough and beyond has been relaunched by the Government.

But a Harborough Rail Users spokesman said electrification on its own is not enough.

The plan had been on ice, but Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced that the electrification will be “un-paused”.

The £1.1 billion scheme will, however, be delivered four years later than originally planned, reaching to Kettering and Corby by 2019, and to Derby and Nottingham by 2023. The assumption is that electrification could reach Harborough by 2020.

Mr McLoughlin said: “As a one nation Government we are making sure every part of Britain benefits from a growing economy.”

Chairman of Network Rail Sir Peter Hendy said: “The temporary pause in the programme has given us the space to develop a better plan for passengers. People can expect more services and faster journeys.”

Harborough Rail Users’ Steve Jones said he hoped the electrification of the track would coincide with line-straightening and station improvements at Market Harborough.

“Electrification will knock a couple of minutes off journey times to London” said Mr Jones. “But the devil’s in the details.

“I’d like to think we’d also get track and station improvements and trains that are better, cleaner and faster than the current equivalent diesel trains.”

Mr Jones added that one big benefit of electric trains could be later trains southbound in the evening.

For many years, the last train back to Market Harborough from Leicester has been around 10pm.

“The trouble with diesel trains is they have to return north to refuelling depots at the end of the day” Mr Jones explained.

Scott Knowles, Chief Executive of East Midlands Chamber, said track electrification was “critical to our economy”.