Wellingborough commuters' fury as new timetable reveals cut in peak-hour trains to London

Less frequent services will mean earlier starts once workers head back to their desks

By Kevin Nicholls
Friday, 12th March 2021, 12:59 pm
Refurbished electric trains will be stopping at Wellingborough station from May 16. Photo: Jonathan Wall /  @lsodp
Refurbished electric trains will be stopping at Wellingborough station from May 16. Photo: Jonathan Wall / @lsodp

Wellingborough commuters are up in arms after learning the number of peak hour trains will be slashed by half as part of 'improvements' starting in May.

East Midlands Railway will roll out a new timetable in May, six months later than planned after electrification work on the Midland Main Lane was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

But regular passengers were shocked to learn the current seven rush-hour trains to London will be down to just FOUR reaching the capital before 9am.

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Diesel-powered Meridian trains will run on East Midlands Railway's Inter City routes from May

Travellers from Kettering will have eight trains to choose from over the same, some taking just 50 minutes to reach the capital instead of 57 from Wellingborough.

One commuter said: "Two trains an hour in the peak is a complete disgrace.

"I can just about put up with the longer journey time but this is a severely retrograde step in terms of flexibility.

"Everyone who wants to be in the office for 9am will have to get the 7:26. The current 7:51 used to be perfect for this but now I will have to get to the station nearly half an hour earlier every day."

Refurbished electric trains will run from Corby to London every half-hour during the morning peak.

The four-car sets can be coupled together to make a maximum of 12 carriages, offering around four times more seats than the current five-car diesel-powered trains.

But changes to other services on the line mean passengers from Bedford and Luton are likely to use the EMR services as a faster route to work once restrictions are eased and people return to their desks.

The refurbished Class 360 units also have a slower top speed.

Another member of the Wellingborough Rail Users Facebook group, Giles Davies, added: "Stations like St Neots and Huntingdon are probably the most comparable to the new service we will get and then have a half hourly service during the day but during rush hour get four trains an hour.

"How it is acceptable Wellingborough will still only get an off-peak service during rush hour.

"We keep being told there is no space on the tracks for other services to stop.

"But now Wellingborough has four platforms and the electric trains will be running on the slow tracks so north of Bedford there will only be these two half-hour hourly services running.

"There seems nothing to stop an intercity service moving onto the slow track north of Bedford to stop at Wellingborough and allow the other non-stop services fly through Wellingborough on the fast tracks.

"I have never had an issue getting a seat on peak services before. But now Thameslink 'fast' services are going to stop running from Bedford in May, I suspect we'll be fighting to get a seat."

East Midlands Railway's new timetable, which has been more than five years in the planning, will see trains running from Corby to London calling at Kettering and Wellingborough while InterCity services from Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield call at Kettering only.

An EMR spokesman said: "Overall, the new timetable will provide more seats, quicker journeys and a simpler and more resilient timetable for passengers.

"Journey times are very close to today's, on average only ten minutes longer and everyone who wants to be in the office for 9am can get the 7:57 service which arrives at 08:53; only 12 minutes later than the current 07:51 departure.

"The new services also reinstates the opportunity to travel Wellingborough-Bedford-Luton international during the peak — which you cannot do now — and although the Class 360 units have a slower top speed they have quicker braking, acceleration and shorter dwell times so the journey time difference is negligible."

■ This article has been updated from a previous version to include a fuller response from East Midlands Railway.