Further update from Paul Wright, 30th October 2017
Railways Electrification Update - Politicians seem to have a crafty, if not dubious knack of feeding news to us if and when it suits them, and this was the case for announcing the bad news regarding the electrification of the Midland Mainline. The scheme is now going to be a much lesser distance that had been planned, and is now ending locally at Kettering and Corby. This bombshell was delivered just as parliament was about to go on their summer holidays. So in July of 2017 we were awaiting some sort of start on the upgrade work. We were then informed by transport secretary Mr Grayling that his Tory government have decided to scrap the planned electrification any further north than Kettering and Corby. Mr Grayling said that they are investing some of biggest sums of money since the Victorian era! This would mean that the plan was to introduce extra seats on faster trains, with even better facilities on board. So for now the latest plan is to introduce "bi-mode" trains, so for us lay people who are wondering just what these trains would do for our travel needs? Most of the Inter City express trains have been ordered from Hitachi and will now have to be bi-mode, fitted with diesel engines to run on non-electrified lines. Final costings have not been confirmed, but the bi-mode trains are believed to be less efficient because of the extra weight and a smaller capacity. Viewing things from a labour party perspective Mr Andy McDonald, who has the position of shadow transport secretary, accused Mr Grayling of "taking people for a ride". Putting a government spin on things he assured us that "thanks to this new technology" the disruption that would be experienced with electrification will no longer take place. Passengers will sooner see the benefits and experience less disruption compared to putting up with intrusive wires and masts along the parts of the route where they are no longer required. Other areas away from our patch will be affected by this latest U turn, this will include lines to and from Wales, and the north and as mentioned in detail the midlands. These will be routes running between Swansea and Cardiff, Windermere and Oxenholme, and here on our patch the line from Bedford to Kettering and Corby. Mr Grayling said "That's why I announced a new state-of-the-art fleet of bi-mode trains which will be running on the Midland mainline from 2022. These trains are capable of using electrified wires as well as running under their own power. It would be a period of five years that the mainline travelling west from Paddington to Swansea would be electrified. He also promised further investment to ensure that "Sheffield" would be ready for "High speed 2" (HS2). This is the ultra controversial route that will be running from London to the West Midlands and eventually beyond to the north of England. These will be carrying up to 11,100 passengers, and at a projected cost of £56 billion. By the time both phases are completed in 2033 there will 350 miles of new track. Looking on the tongue in cheek side of things, we have spent lots of money on demolishing old bridges and infrastructure from the Victorian era, this has given us gleaming white looking raised concrete bridges that are going to be a target no doubt for the areas north of Kettering, and are maybe just waiting for "Chad" to strike with three immortal words. "Wot NO electrification"?
So for now the power lines end just past Bedford station, as can be seen in our shots. And when the launch of the heralded diesel-electric hybrid trains eventually happened on Monday 16th October, 2017 all was not well. The Hitachi class 800 departed late from Bristol and leaking air conditioning wrecked at least one passenger’s laptop. Unspecified technical problems meant it left Bristol 25 minutes late, and the two hour journey to London ended up being 41 minutes late, and many passengers had to stand for their two hour journey. And the first London to Bristol Temple Meads did not run at all, with many passengers being told about going to other platforms, rather than the intended one, and then only to be told that it was going from the original platform in the end!
The trains are built up in County Durham and can run with potential speeds of up to 140 mph, but that will mean track upgrades before that can be achieved. There has been a consultation regarding the number of trains calling at Luton, Bedford, Wellingborough and Kettering. Train passengers wishing to travel from Wellingborough to Leicester may face having to change at Kettering in the future. The proposals were revealed in October 2017. This was part of the process of selecting the company to operate services on the Midland Mainline running through Northamptonshire from St Pancras. An off-peak service for Kettering and Corby could see an increase on local trains being introduced. Currently in 2017 East Midlands trains have operated the contract, as can be seen at Bedford in our shots, also the electric trains of Thameslink are also included.