Wellingborough MP 'not yet satisfied' over changes to rail services
Changes to the timetable have left Wellingborough commuters with few direct Intercity trains
North Northamptonshire's MPs have raised their concerns about controversial changes to rail services with East Midlands Railways (EMR).
As well as the infrastructure changes to allow electrification of the main line to London, controversial timetable changes have been made with Kettering chosen as the depot for trains and a regional interchange.
Passengers travelling to cities in the north from down-graded Wellingborough station now have to change trains and platforms at Kettering for the large majority of the day - those travelling south must use the EMR Connect with only an handful of Intercity trains available.
Trains operating on the EMR Connect services - known as Class 360s - are old rolling stock from Greater Anglia that EMR had hoped to fully refurbish before they entered service, but due to delays caused by the pandemic have only been given a lick of paint.
Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, has raised concerns over the timetable and rolling stock. He said: "I have had a number of constituents contact me about the new service with their legitimate concerns.
"They don't have decent seats, or tables. There's no buffet car or catering. There's no space for bikes and there's no First Class.
"We were promised electric trains of a higher calibre. Unfortunately because of Covid they won't go into service until the middle of next year."
With many EMR Connect service fleet of Class 360s starting from Corby, passengers joining the trains at stations in north Northamptonshire including Kettering and Wellingborough, should be able to find a seat.
Despite a reduction in the number of trains stopping at Wellingborough station to travel south - eight trains instead of 12 - there are more seats available increasing capacity but not comfort.
Mr Bone said: "The big gripe before was that people didn't have enough seats on the trains.
"I understand the new trains have been put back because of Covid and that we can't mess about with the timetable but I'm not yet satisfied. What they can do is fix the trains. They do need to run on time and have enough seats.
"What is going to happen is they will drive to Kettering to get the train."
Mr Bone raised the issue of catering for commuters faced with hour-long journeys to London with EMR.
He said: "They said they are looking into doing something, perhaps with something at the station or a trolley or even a vending machine on board."
The £1.5bn infrastructure improvements include new overhead electric line equipment, additional track between Kettering and Corby, a new electric service, the rebuilding and widening of bridges, lengthening platforms and canopies at stations, completed by Network Rail.
EMR Connect comprises eight carriage electric trains serving Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough, Bedford, Luton and Luton Airport Parkway every 30 minutes on weekdays from 6am.
Joining Mr Bone were Cllr Graham Lawman (portfolio holder for highways, travel and assets at North Northants Council), MP for Corby Tom Pursglove and Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering.
The group had a whistle-stop visit to the new sidings designed and built for electric trains to be kept overnight and cleaned, ready for passengers the next day.
Mr Hollobone said: “I was really pleased to visit the new depot at Kettering station. In fact this was my second visit in just a few weeks as I previously visited the depot with Chris Heaton-Harris MP, who is the rail minister.
"East Midlands Railway and Network Rail have together invested about £40m in Kettering station with a complete refurbishment of the station itself, extension of the platforms and car parks, a brand new secure cycle parking facility, and the creation of a new train depot and engineering facility. It’s really good news that up to 50 new permanent jobs have been created at the new facilities.
"With the electrification of the line between Corby and London, and the creation of a sixth rail pathway rail passengers from Kettering now enjoy four trains an hour to the capital, with the fastest taking just 46 minutes, whilst the half hourly service northward on the mainline which was halved to just one an hour in 2009 has been reinstated.
"The good news for Kettering rail goers is that there has been a big increase in the frequency of services whilst seating capacity has been massively expanded.”
An East Midlands Railway spokesman said: "We were delighted to welcome Tom, Philip, Peter and Graham to the new Kettering Depot Sidings on Friday afternoon. This follows the introduction of our new EMR Connect service last month.
"We understand the fleet refurbishment is very important to our local partners and customers and we were pleased to update on our plans as well as providing a tour of the new facility in Kettering."
Mr Bone added: "They have promised upgraded trains within a year. It is not ideal but I will keep pushing. I would ask my constituents to contact me so I can act on their behalf and pass on their concerns."