East Midland Trains

Trip on the old Midland Railway from St. Pancras to Market Harborough.

East Midlands Trains is a franchise operating in its namesake area north and east of London. Detail of an HST Class 43 power car (locomotive). Lumix LX3 photo.
East Midlands Trains is a franchise operating in its namesake area north and east of London. Detail of an HST Class 43 power car (locomotive). Lumix LX3 photo.

I’d pre-booked tickets to ride from St. Pancras north on the old Midland Railway. The last time I made this journey I traveled on Midland Mainline trains, but this franchise was reconfigured in 2007 and now East Midland Trains handles the run.

Although my day’s journey began on the London Tube, the real part of the railway trip started from St. Pancras, a virtual cathedral of British Railways. (See my previous posts: London April 2013, and London Stations). Here the colossal Victorian era shed shelters Eurostar trains bound for Brussels and Paris.

St. Pancras
William Barlow’s classic St. Pancras balloon arch train shed as seen in July 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

Rebuilding and reconfiguring of St. Pancras in the mid-2000s, resulted in an inspiring interpretation of the historic architecture. However, domestic long distance trains were then relegated to the newer, less inspired train shed extension beyond William Barlow’s pioneering balloon arch.

I arrived looking for the 0930 departure, only to find the place in a bit of turmoil. When I enquired of member of East Midland’s staff where the 0930 was, he said to me, ‘Don’t know mate, the place is in a kip this morning, all the trains are running late, check the boards.’ An honest answer. I accept that.

Eventually, the same East Midlands man found me again, and said, ‘your train’s on platform 3b.’ Right. We only left about 7 minutes after the advertised schedule. However, we were out of path and got stuck in behind a slower moving First Capitol Connect electric suburban train and lost a few more minutes.

The old Midland route is one of the busiest mainline railways in Britain. It’s a four track electrified line from St Pancras to Bedford. Fast lines are good for 110 mph and used for express passenger trains, with slow lines accommodating stopping First Capitol Connect electric services to Bedford and freights.

It’s a thrill to be racing along at 100+ mph and overtake another train. The route is virtually saturated. This means that based on limitations of current infrastructure and signaling, the Midland route is accommodating the maximum number of trains possible at peak times.

I rode out on a class 222 Meridian diesel-multiple unit, and back to London on a 1970s era HST. The HST offered a nicer ride and more spacious accommodation.

I’m a biased fan of the HST, so the modern cramped facilities of the Meridian just wouldn’t impress me, although it’s a better option than a plane or bus, given a necessary comparison.

British Rail ticket
Macro view of my seat reservation from London to Market Harborough. Although the nationalized and unified British Rail network was broken up in the mid-1990s (with passenger services now provided by private companies operating designated franchise routes and to a limited extend via open access arrangements) the old British Rail logo is still used on tickets and related documents. Lumix LX3 photo.
St. Pancras
An HST powercar looms in the darkness of the modern St. Pancras shed extension. The station was officially renamed in 2007 and is now St. Pancras International using airport style lexicon to reflect its enhanced status among British railway stations. Lumix LX3 photo.
East Midlands poster
East Midlands poster at Market Harborough in July 2013. This advertises 84 miles in 61 minutes. I wish Amtrak’s Acela could boast that sort of running from Penn-Station to New Haven Connecticut. Lumix LX3 photo.
East Midlands Trains.
East Midlands class 222 Meridian trains at Market Harborough. Fast and comfortable, but not as nice as an HST. Lumix LX3 photo.
Meridian train
An East Midlands express blitzes the up platform at Market Harborough. Lumix LX3 photo.
East Midlands Trains HST high speed train
An outbound East Midlands Trains HST (powered by class 43 diesels fore and aft) accelerates away from the down platform at Market Harborough. Just to clarify, this is the rear of the train, a similar powercar is roaring away at the head end. Lumix LX3 photo.
View from a London bound HST overtaking a First Capitol Connect suburban electric train south of Bedford. The old Midland Railway four track mainline is among the busiest long distance routes in Britain.
View from a London bound HST overtaking a First Capitol Connect suburban electric train south of Bedford. The old Midland Railway four track mainline is among the busiest long distance routes in Britain.
Commemorative plaque on an East Midlands Trains HST. Lumix LX3 photo.
Commemorative plaque on an East Midlands Trains HST. Lumix LX3 photo.

My 84 mile trip from London to Market Harborough was accomplished in a little more than an hour and fifteen minutes, with station stops and delays. It was even faster on the return leg. It was a good trip!

 

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