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