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Tensions rise over new East Midlands franchise

The consultation run by the Department for Transport for the next East Midlands rail franchise continues to divide business and community leaders at the northern and southern ends of the Midland Main Line.

Closing on October 11, the DfT’s consultation document drew conflicting responses to a controversial proposal to speed up journey times and reduce overcrowding on long-distance services to London St Pancras from Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and Leicester, by removing calling points south of Kettering.

This would reduce journey times between Sheffield and London to less than two hours for peak and off-peak services, but would increase journey times from stations further south, including Bedford, Luton Airport Parkway and Wellingborough.

These stations would instead be served by new 12-car electric multiple unit commuter stopping services between Corby and London. Passengers from these stations could also be required to change at Kettering for destinations further north if direct inter-city services are re-scheduled to run non-stop.

The proposal has been welcomed in a joint consultation response from representatives of the Sheffield City Region, but has been sharply criticised by the England’s Economic Heartland’s Strategic Transport Forum.

The Forum, which represents local authorities and local enterprise partnerships across an area stretching from Oxfordshire and Milton Keynes to Luton, Northamptonshire and Cambridge, said that such a move would damage the area’s potential for long-term economic growth, which relies on providing improved connectivity such as East West Rail.

Forum Chairman Heather Smith said she was “deeply concerned” that alternative arrangements would have “an unacceptable impact on passengers”, and has called on the DfT to hold a second round of consultations before the franchise process is taken any further.

The current franchise has been run by Stagecoach-owned East Midlands Trains since 2007, but will end in August 2019. The DfT currently intends to issue an Invitation to Tender in April 2018 before a contract award is made to the winning bidder in spring 2019. 

  • The full story is in RAIL 838, published on October 25, or out now on Android/iPad.

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  • FrankH - 23/10/2017 15:29

    The above mentioned stations get 2 services to/from London per hour, 1 from Corby and 1 from Nottingham, these are with East Midlands and off peak. Between 7 and 9 there is double that during the rush hours as there should be. To make any service non stop to/from Kettering in the off peak would for a passenger going Bedford to Sheffield for eg involve 2 changes of train, Kettering and Leicester. As for getting the times to below 2 hours the 09.26 Ex St Pancras is scheduled for 2 hrs 14 minutes, first stop Leicester. The 08.49 ex Sheffield 2 hrs 8 minutes last stop Leicester. Now how if Leicester is the first/last stop and the affected stations are not called at is omitting them going to get times below 2 hours. The 09.58 ex St Pancras is scheduled for 2 hours dead. Stopping Leicester, Derby and Chesterfield. Services from Sheffield with the same stops are also a 2 hr schedule. So unless one of the 3 stops is taken out your not going to get below 2 hours no matter what you do south of Kettering.

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    • BigTone - 23/10/2017 17:30

      The answer is to extend some of the Thameslink services from Bedford to Corby. (I make no claims for originality). Nothing to stop EMT or their successor having some long distance services via Corby and Melton Mowbray. The minimum specification for Inter-City Bi-modes should be 125 mph in diesel mode ( eg Hitatchi Class 802). Back onto my soapbox. More "local" services, end of single coach working.

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      • FrankH - 26/10/2017 11:28

        If the 387's don't go on the Corby services I've a horrid feeling that might happen. Passengers will be well chuffed, HST's or Meridians to class 700's plus a much longer journey. They're not getting good reports.

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        • PeterK - 26/10/2017 14:03

          DfT were pretty clear that Thameslink would not be extended to Kettering and Corby. However if I lived in Corby, the prospect of direct trains to Blavckfriars, Croydon, Gatwick and Brighton would not be unattractive. Do 12 coach 700’s (or any 12 coach train) fit into St Pancras platforms 1 to 4. The max for Meridians is 10 coaches. DfT looked like rabbits in the headlights when that was raised. Anyone know the answer?

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          • FrankH - 26/10/2017 20:49

            12 coach 700 = 242 metres, assuming 3 x 4 car 387's will be slightly longer. Platform length 255 metres, so it's touch and go whether the planned 387's will fit.

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          • FrankH - 26/10/2017 21:56

            12 coach 700 = 242 metres, assuming 3 x 4 car 387's will be slightly longer. Platform length 255 metres, so it's touch and go whether the planned 387's will fit.

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    • PeterK - 23/10/2017 18:46

      Sheffield to London fast services are 2hrs 1 min off peak and averaging 2hr 25min in the morning peak. Compare that with VTEC or VTWC services from similar distances out of London. Sheffield is asking for a peak hour service into London in under 2 hrs by taking out stops south of Leicester. This is not revolutionary. The Master Cutler arrives in London at 09.33 in about 2 hrs from Sheffield but business and conference patterns have changed over the years and a pre 0900 arrival is what is now required, in Master Cutler timings. The sub 2 hrs will come by Market Harborough and Derby re-modelling. Commuter flows should be served by commuter trains, like on every other route into London. 12 coach electric services will have a dramatic sparks effect on the economic fortunes of stations north of Bedford. Passenger flows northbound from intermediate stations are comparatively low and there should still be at least 1 EM IC stop each hour to cater for that demand. A balanced view is being taken but we are certainly seeing strong pressure from the London commuter and airport lobby. This is an inter city franchise and in Sheffield’s view, the DfT have it right. Splitting of IC and commuter flows is essential and we need to take a one nation view and avoid just London centric thinking. Sheffield is a growing dynamic IT and manufacturing city and is a exciting and rejuvenated place. We want to efficiently do business in London by train.

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      • FrankH - 25/10/2017 00:14

        I doubt the people, commuters as you call them will share your views. Take Bedford for eg in the morning peak, 38-44 minutes with EM 1 stop @ Luton, 51-59 minutes TL semi fast, 75 minutes TL stopper.

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        • PeterK - 25/10/2017 08:32

          I call them commuters because that is what they are. People commuting daily to work. There will be 6 EM paths into St Pancras per hour and 12 coach electric trains will provide part of the service replacing 8 coach HST’s. These electric trains are not Thameslink services and so should run to near existing timings. What Sheffield is asking for is a sub 2 hr pre 0900 London arrival but to get that there does need to be change and an acceptance by some vociferous groups that there is life “north of Watford”. A balanced view of the issue needs to recognise the legitimate interests of all parties.

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          • FrankH - 26/10/2017 11:10

            Hardly commuting at 70 miles from Kettering. The plan is for 110 mph 387's (which are suitable for outer suburban, middle distance services) from Corby. 2 per hour. Bi - mode units to replace HST's on inter city runs. Now if as the DFT is consulting on (non stop from Kettering) EM will lose revenue on peak hour services which used to stop en route reducing premium payments to the Goverment or need more subsidy whichever it is. This will be a deciding factor.

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            • PeterK - 26/10/2017 14:13

              If you work in London every day then it is a commute, however it is expressed. No different from Kent, Hampshire or anywhere else. The new electric services will be EM services and will rake it additional revenue by more capacity and more demand. The DfT are looking for a revenue return to government and I am sure they will get it. It is just whether they consider there is a place for faster trains in the peak from Sheffield, Derby and Leicester. It is all down to how they assess the contribution of cities ‘north of Watford’. Treasury models (in relation to say HS2) attribute a large economic benefit on each journey time minute saved on inter-city journeys.

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              • FrankH - 26/10/2017 21:48

                I don't know how NR are going to diagram these proposals, seems like 5 per hour is the best possible at present, But dwell times at London could be shortened a little from 40-45 minutes giving 6 departures per hour leaving room for the 2nd Corby service. Sheffield/Nottingham 1st and 2nd closely followed by the Corby semi fast. I say this because there is no room on the slow lines in the peak at 16 tph to Luton/Bedford.

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  • Noam - 24/10/2017 09:35

    How much demand is there for travel northwards from Kettering and points south? Could it not be catered for by stopping a maximum of one train per hour at Kettering, running alternate hours to Nottingham and Derby/Sheff? All other trains could then run fast STP LEI and vice versa.

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  • DannyB - 24/10/2017 18:33

    Compared to early 2000s most EMT Services south of Leicester are fast anyway, at least off peak. Out of four trains an hour 2 are non-stop, 1 calls at Market Harborough and just one calls at intermediate stations , The Corby to St Pancras service makes calls south of Ketting, however with most of the 2 trains an hour from Sheffield running non-stop south of Leicester through journeys between stations such as Bedford, Luton, Ketting to Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield are very limited.

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    • PeterK - 25/10/2017 08:22

      The point I was making was : so is the demand in comparison with London travel.

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  • AndrewJGwilt1989 - 24/10/2017 23:48

    Its either between First Group, MTR, Abellio, Govia/Go-Ahead, Trenitalia, Arriva and JR Railway Co that could win the East Midlands franchise. Unless Stagecoach can extend the franchise to 9/10 years. Stagecoach already lost the South Western franchise to First Group+MTR back in August.

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  • Philip Walker - 26/10/2017 13:10

    It seems these proposals might displease as many people as possible. Connectivity from important stations such as Bedford and Luton Airport would be lost and slower journey times would result for Bedford. And I think SLOWER 'inter-city' journeys might be implied: if MML services run fast to Kettering, I guess the implication is more would call there. So how about the 'express & semi-fast' solution? Both the Derby/Sheffield and Nottingham routes have two trains a hour. So both Derby/Sheffield and Nottingham could continue to have one fast train an hour first stop Leicester (Nottingham surely needs fast limited-stop trains restored) achieving the fastest possible journey times. And the other train per hour would be semi-fast which would include calls at Luton Airport Parkway and Bedford for connectivity.

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    • PeterK - 26/10/2017 13:56

      Thanks Philip. The trouble is that Derby and Sheffield presently have 2 non stop trains per hour London/Leicester. Your suggestion would slow one to semi-fast. So the north loses yet again. That is not a chip on the shoulder thing but just a comment that enough is enough. We lost our promised electrification and now we are fighting a battle to keep just 2 fast trains an hour into London in the face of opposition from towns and cities getting an electrified railway, 12 coach new electric trains and a massive sparks effect. Let’s have some fairness here.

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      • Philip Walker - 26/10/2017 17:35

        I was suggesting adding Luton A and Bedford to the slower of the 2tph to Sheffield (xx26 from St P) to improve connectivity. But as has been suggested, the demand for stops at Luton A and Bedford for journeys to Derby and Sheffield may be minimal, so the current off-peak stopping pattern on the Derby/Sheffield route may be best kept, with the xx26 fast to Leicester as now, to preserve 2 fast trains per hr to Sheffield one taking 2hrs the other 2hrs15. I wonder if the plan is to add a Kettering stop to the xx26s. But how many MML paths per hour are planned - if more than 4, then the 5th train could call Luton A, Bedford, and all north of Bedford Nottingham surely needs a faster service per hour calling only Leicester restored. The other Nottingham per hour could be another train calling Luton A and Bedford then all north of Bedford. This would be supplemented as far as Kettering by the Corby service.

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  • ChrisM - 26/10/2017 22:51

    Forgive me, but the second half of the article appearing in the printed edition is missing here online. The headline says "Tensions rise over new East Midlands franchise" but the tension coming from the Sheffield end of the line is almost totally missing here. It's not just the Midland Mainline. The Hope Valley line between Sheffield and Manchester is in urgent need of investment to reduce the bottlenecks and delays that prevent that service from being described as more than semi-fast. A line that has 100 mph capable trains restricted to no more than 60 mph for long ditances. A line that was expected to have some of those bottlenecks reduced by a scheme costed at only £18m and in place by September 2018, but now delayed until who knows when thanks to prevarication at the DfT. Consequenty this consultation cannot fully consider the needs of the full length of the Liverpool - Norwich route while uncertainty continues. At the DfT's Sheffield consultation meeting the East Midlands consortium had a seat on the platform to promulgate their desire for the proposed third hourly train on the Hope Valley line to use the Dore south curve and avoid Dore & Totley and Sheffield entirely. (The scheme has been watered down from the originally intended 4 fast trains an hour requirement which might have made this suggestion reasonable.) The fact that there was nobody on the platform from South Yorkshire raised my concerns, but to hear that idea in Sheffield Town Hall without anyone from the local councils on the platform to counter it most certainly did raise the tension!

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  • BigTone - 28/10/2017 13:45

    The non stop Sheffield to/from London services, do the go via Derby or via the direct Erewash valley route?

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    • FrankH - 29/10/2017 21:48

      Sheffield services stop Chesterfield, Derby, Long Eaton, East Mids parkway, Loughborough and Leicester. Nearest to non stop call Chesterfield, derby and Leicester.

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  • Roger Blake - 03/11/2017 14:47

    Not sure anyone has mentioned the planned completion of East-West Rail from Oxford to Bedford by 2023/24, about mid-way through the next EM franchise. Not only should both of the hourly Corby services call there, then - on the basis that if only one stop in long-distance services south of Kettering is possible then use it to maximum effect - so too should the slower of each of the two hourly Sheffield and Nottingham services, for north-facing connectivity reasons. They like the two Corby services would then also connect into Thameslink for access to Luton Airport, as well as direct links beyond St. Pancras across central London, including the Crossrail interchange at Farringdon.

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