Midland Main Line Electrification

For the first part of our September meeting we were joined by Gavin Crook (Network Rail Principal Programme Sponsor) and Duncan Cale (Infrastructure Interface Lead East Midlands Railway) to talk about the Midland Main Line Electrification Upgrade. The project is currently focused on electrifying the railway from Kettering to Wigston South Jn, although work is also happening elsewhere, with upgrade to the OLE from St Pancras to Bedford, to allow 125mph running.

A fleet of new bi-mode multiple units, Class 810 ‘Aurora’, are to be introduced by East Midlands Railway (EMR) replacing the current Meridian fleet. The fleet will comprise 33 5-car sets with delivery into service from 2024-2025. To accommodate the new fleet, significant upgrades are being made to Etches Park Depot at Derby.

Both Gavin and Duncan were keen to emphasise the collaborative working between EMR and Network Rail on this project. They also acknowledged the challenges to overcome with costs being a key risk. There is also ongoing industrial action to contend with as well as the uncertainties around the railways future structure.

This was a thorough introduction to the project, and both the challenges and opportunities to come. A lively session of questions and answers followed the main presentation.

The second part of our meeting was presented by Clive Pepper, who with the help of archive newspaper articles, took us through some of the notable railway happenings locally from the early 1970s to the 1990s. Whilst the price of a rail ticket to London may be somewhat more than the 80p it was in 1972, rail strikes in February 1984, are sadly something that is still being experienced in 2023. The period reviewed also included the opening of Milton Keynes Central in 1982 and the introduction of Class 317s in 1987, which were not well liked, having less seats per unit than the 310s they replaced. This was an enjoyable trip through the archives.