Wellingborough MP to meet train company over changes to service

Commuters are unhappy over new train service

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By Natalie Bloomer

MP for Wellingborough Peter Bone will meet with East Midlands Railway (EMR) next week to discuss ongoing issues with a new train service to London.

Earlier this month EMR launched its electric service between Corby and St Pancras but many commuters are unhappy with a number of the changes. 

Members of the Wellingborough Rail Users group on Facebook have voiced their concerns over timetable changes, journey times and the condition of the trains being used.

When details of the new service (EMR Connect) were first announced, commuters were told the new trains would be refurbished. Because of Covid this has now been delayed.

“My journey time used to be 45 minutes, now it is 57,” Oksana Procyk, who has been a commuter for six years, says. 

“I understand that Covid has delayed things but there are now less trains during peak times, more stops and they are old trains that haven’t been refurbished. And we’re still paying much higher prices than from places like Bedford.”

The service will also no longer continue north of Corby to places like Nottingham as it previously did. Those wanting to continue their journey will need to change at Kettering.

Procyk has written to both the train company and Peter Bone to express her anger over the changes. The MP sent her concerns on to the minister of state for the Department for Transport and MP for Daventry Chris Heaton-Harris. 

In reply to the letter Heaton-Harris said in March:

“The electric trains being brought over...will be completely refurbished to cater for current passenger’s needs...Any perceived change in quality of trains from Wellingborough should be offset by the increase in capacity that is planned.

“Although the services may make more calls, electric trains have higher acceleration and the boarding times will be much quicker because trains are suitable for use by commuters.”

Peter Bone says he is meeting with the train company next week to discuss some of his constituents’ concerns.

“Covid has had a massive effect on the train service but I’m assured that the train times will be as good as the previous service and that the trains will be refurbished. People should be able to get a seat on the new service which is something that was an issue before.

“But I have concerns about the trains heading north of Corby no longer stopping at Wellingborough. Why can’t we have some stopping at Wellingborough and some at Kettering? Otherwise people will end up driving to Kettering to get the train and parking is already an issue there. It’s something that definitely needs looking at and I have a meeting with the train company next week and will be raising it.”

One Wellingborough commuter who has been travelling into London for over 20 years told NN Journal the service has gradually declined over the years. 

“I used to be able to reserve a seat and was offered complimentary tea or coffee, that’s all gone. I’m currently working from home because of Covid but prior to that I was lucky if I could get a seat at all and would usually end up sitting on the floor - for that I would pay £6,500 per year.

“These new changes just feel like things are getting worse again. We’re paying the same price for trains that are less comfortable and stop at more stations. The new Stanton Cross housing estate has just been built by the station and people were told it was an ideal location for people wanting to commute into the city. I’m not sure many would agree now.”

Speaking about the changes previously, EMR said the electric train service will offer a more “consistent half-hourly” service and will keep journey times to London “comfortably under one hour”. 

In response to the letter from Procyk EMR said:

“EMR will reintroduce peak services at Bedford and Luton. Customers in Wellingborough who travelled to and from London prior to May 2018 will know services which called at Bedford were usually extremely busy, with customers standing in vestibules and all seats taken. To reintroduce these calls and continue to provide enough seats for all customers we need to make changes to how the timetable has operated previously.  

“We are confident the EMR Connect route will mean there will be more than sufficient seats for all customers to have a seat at peak times – even based on pre-Covid levels of passenger use. This is because services at Wellingborough will have started at Corby – instead of Nottingham, Sheffield or (occasionally) Lincoln.  In addition, pre-Covid passenger flows showed nearly 90 per cent of journeys from Wellingborough were to stations south of Kettering (with the vast majority of those to London). 

“Unfortunately, the intention to refurbish some units before the introduction of the timetable was affected by Covid as it stopped the supply chain for a number of months...The refurbishment programme remains something EMR is absolutely committed to delivering and work is already underway and we look forward to sharing more of those details very shortly.”

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