East Midlands Trains engineering works confusion

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As a follow-up to my analysis of the East Midlands Trains timetable changes from May, I’ve noticed that during the engineering works last Sunday (and, I’ve been told, this Sunday coming – however there’s no indication of this on the PDF timetables for this weekend which show the Bedford calls as normal), East Midlands Trains services were designated drop-off only southbound and pick-up only northbound at Luton Airport Parkway, Luton & Bedford. However, the Engineering Works summary on their site mentions nothing about this at all! It’s only if you go into the PDF timetables that this becomes apparent. What’s even more confusing is the PDF timetables aren’t consistant either. Looking at last Sunday, it looks like there were calls in one direction but not the other, whereas in fact Luton Airport Parkway, Luton & Bedford calls in both directions were unadvertised if travelling southbound from these stations or northbound to them.

For example, the last train of the night (the 2300) – which I travelled on personally – was showing on departure boards at St Pancras as first stop Wellingborough, even though their own timetable, and on-train announcements were showing the call at Luton Airport Parkway & Bedford. People asking about these stations were being actively turned away also.

It does look like the calls are now being advertised in both directions for this Sunday, perhaps off the back of the confusion last weekend, but I’ll be monitoring this closely to see what actually happens. I was told here that the same restrictions would be in place this weekend:

However, the calls are not officially set as set down only southbound/pick up only northbound and National Rail Enquiries will give me an itinerary using EMT services quite happily. Seeing this, I then follow up this week with:

I’ve so far been ignored on this request, so it doesn’t even look like EMT know for sure what’s happening this weekend (I’ve now received an official comment on this, which seems to confirm the same arrangement will be in place this weekend – see update at the bottom of the article).

Speculation locally is that last Sunday may have been a trial for a weekday pick up northbound/set down southbound arrangement in the peaks, to avoid bustituting those commuting into Bedford from the north. Personally I’m not entirely convinced on this theory, as it’s something EMT have done during major engineering works before (notably, on a weekend when upgrading the wires to permit 125mph running a few years back so EMT were the only services running Bedford to Luton) and appears to be entirely for their own convenience, however I wouldn’t rule out the theory that last Sunday was a test run being true.

Per my last article, would be very interested to hear your views on this.

UPDATE 11:15am: I’ve contacted East Midlands Trains via the Stagecoach Group press office for comment regarding this too, and a spokesperson has stated the following:

“Network Rail are carrying out significant engineering works near Leicester, which means East Midlands Trains services are not able to run directly between London St Pancras and stations north of Leicester. As a result, rail replacement buses are running between Leicester and Nottingham and between Leicester and Derby.

“Unfortunately, this also has a knock on effect for our customers in Bedford and Luton. Due to the nature and location of the works, we cannot get our trains from our main depots in Leeds and Derby to the southern end of the route and our refuelling and stabling capacity at the southern end of the route is very limited. As a result, the overall capacity of our services south of Leicester is significantly reduced.

“Therefore, we have taken the decision to advertise East Midlands Trains services as pick up only travelling northbound and set down only travelling southbound in order to reduce the risk of overcrowding, particularly as Thameslink are running a full timetable for Bedford and Luton during this time.”

They didn’t comment on my points regarding how this has been advertised, however.

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