The Anonymous Widower

Reopening Milton Keynes And Market Harborough Via Northampton

This post was originally part of Shapps Supports Beeching Axe Reversals.

That post takes its name from an article with a similar name in Rail Magazine.

But I now feel it would be better if it became a standalone post.

This route has not been proposed as a Beeching Reversal, but seems to have surfaced from the MP and the local rail group.

I was digging around the Internet looking for the words “Beeching Reversal, I found when this article on the Harborough Mail, which is entitled Harborough Rail Group Says Plan To Reopen Historic Line Is A ‘Excellent Idea’.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Moves to reopen the historic Market Harborough-Northampton railway line are being backed by a local rail passengers’ chief.

The Market Harborough-Northampton Line was only finally closed in 1981.

  • It used to connect the two stations with a double-track railway.
  • It is about fourteen miles long.
  • It is now partly a heritage railway and a walking and cycling route called the Brampton Valley Way.

I have flown my virtual helicopter along the route and can make these observations.

  • There is space for a bay platform at Market Harborough station.
  • Once clear of Market Harborough, the route appears to be across open countryside.
  • The connection to the Northampton Loop Line wouldn’t be too difficult.

The only problem, I can see is that the route into Market Harborough station appears to be tricky.

These are a few of my thoughts.

What Passenger Service Would Be Provided?


  • The route could certainly handle an hourly shuttle, as does the nearby Marston Vale Line.
  • Northampton station currently has three trains per hour (tph) to and from London.
  • Timings between Northampton and Market Harborough stations would probably be around twenty minutes.
  • Fast services between Northampton and Euston take about an hour.
  • Four tph between Northampton and London would probably be desirable.

So could a fourth service to and from London, be extended to Market Harborough station? Or perhaps even Leicester, which already has a platform, where the trains could be turned back?

  • I estimate that with a ten minute turnround at Market Harborough, a three hour round trip would be possible and very convenient.
  • A single track between Northampton and Market Harborough station would be enough.
  • The fourteen miles between the two stations could be handled by a battery-electric train, as there will be electrification at both ends of the route.
  • Porterbrook are developing a battery-electric Class 350 train.

At a first glance, this looks to be a very sensible proposition.

This map clipped from Wikipedia, shows the rail line between Milton Keynes Central and Northampton stations.

It is planned to introduce, a service between Marylebone and Milton Keynes Central using the tracks of the East West Rail Link.

  • It could be run by East West Rail or Chiltern.
  • It might be an easier service to operate as trains wouldn’t need to be turned back at Milton Keynes Central station.
  • It might be a better financial option, if services were to be extended to Northampton and Market Harborough.

As the East West Rail Link is being built by a private company, do they have plans to create services between say Leicester and Oxford?

An Alternative Route To Leicester

A London Euston and Leicester service via Watford Junction, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Market Harborough could be run either as a regular service or when there are engineering works on the Midland Main Line.

Bringing Workers To Milton Keynes, Northampton and Leicester

When I moved back to Suffolk forty years ago, trains between Cambridge and Ipswich and Cambridge and Norwich were irregular hourly services using single or two-car trains. The good job prospects available in Cambridge, now mean that Greater Anglia now run four-car Class 755 trains on these routes to an hourly timetable.

Milton Keynes, Northampton and Leicester all need similar connections to stimulate employment.

Could Freight Trains Use The  Northampton And Market Harborough Line?


  • A large rail freight interchange is being developed close to East Midlands Airport.
  • The East West Rail Link will be a better route between Southampton Docks and the West Coast Main Line, than the current roundabout routes.
  • Multimodal trains need to travel between the East Midlands and Sheffield and Southampton Docks.
  • Stone trains need to travel between the North Midlands and West London.

If the  Northampton and Market Harborough Line were to be reopened, it would provide a convenient freight route between the Midland Main Line and the West Coast Main Line.

Would the The Northampton And Market Harborough Line Be Electrified?


  • It joins the electrified Midland Main Line at Market Harborough station.
  • It joins the electrified Northampton Loop Line at Northampton station.
  • It is only fourteen miles long.
  • Most trains should be able to bridge use the line on battery power.
  • It will be a new well-surveyed railway, which is easier to electrify.

I suspect, whether the line is electrified will be more down to planning issues.

Would the The Northampton And Market Harborough Line Be Double Track?

The line was double-track when it closed and I think that only planning issues will stop it being reopened as a double track.

Is the Opening Of The Northampton And Market Harborough Line Being Driven By The East West Rail Link?

This is a paragraph from the Rail Magazine article.

Asked by Andrew Lewer (Con) at Transport Questions on October 24 whether he would elaborate on plans to open the proposed Market Harborough line as part of the Oxford to Cambridge expressway he said: “I understand that the reopening is at a formative stage, but I am very supportive of it. Indeed, I support the reopening of many of the smaller lines that were closed as a result of the Beeching cuts under a Labour Government, and I should like to see as many reopened as possible.”

Does that mean that The East West Rail Link is driving this project?


The reopening of Northampton and Market Harborough Line would appear to enable the following.

  • Passenger trains between Marylebone and/or London Euston and Market Harborough and/or Leicester.
  • Passenger trains between Oxford and Leicester via Milton Keynes, Northampton and Market Harborough.
  • An increase to four tph between Northampton and Milton Keynes Central.
  • A valuable freight route between Southampton Docks and the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.

It would also provide a connection between the West Coast Main Line and the Midland Main Line.

Reopening of the Northampton and Market Harborough Line  could be a nice little earner for the East West Rail Link, if it hosted the following services.

  • Freight trains between Southampton Docks and the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.
  • Stone trains between the North Midlands and London.
  • Passenger trains between Marylebone and/or London Euston and Market Harborough and/or Leicester.
  • Passenger trains between Oxford and/or Reading and Market Harborough and/or Leicester.

These sections could also be electrified.

  • Basingstoke and Reading
  • Didcot Parkway and Oxford
  • Oxford and Milton Keynes
  • Northampton and Market Harborough

Much of the abandoned Electric Spine would have been created.

The only possible problem I see with this project is connecting the route to Market Harborough station.

April 26, 2021 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,


  1. […] I have now moved the rest of this article to a standalone article with a title of Reopening Milton Keynes And Market Harborough Via Northampton. […]

    Pingback by Shapps Supports Beeching Axe Reversals « The Anonymous Widower | April 26, 2021 | Reply

  2. Given the disruption building HS2 will create at and around Euston Station then reopening this line would allow linking services to run into St Pancras International instead of Euston Station. Saving many bus transfer journeys at weekends!

    The new trains on order for MML will be bimode so they can run in electric mode to Market Harborough ( where electrification is being extended to) then either as diesel /battery or electric if this route is electrified .

    This project also. Increases case for electrified east west rail project.

    Comment by Melvyn | April 26, 2021 | Reply

    • The trouble with what you suggest, is there would be a reverse at Market Harborough.

      But I think a passenger route between Milton Keynes and Leicester could be a success like Cambridge and Norwich and Cambridge and Ipswich. Cambridge is growing a commuter rail network to bring workers to the City. I think MK could benefit from the same. The East-West Rail will connect Bletchley, Bedford to start with and Northampton should have a good connection.

      Cambridge has shown that rail connections mean jobs.

      An alternative route to Leicester from London would be very useful, even if you had to change trains at MK or Northampton.

      Comment by AnonW | April 27, 2021 | Reply

  3. To reinstate the Market Harborough end of this line on the historic route would require demolition of a block of 30 retirement apartments, a Lidl supermarket, 25 individual dwellings, the reconstruction of 3 significant structures and the reintroduction of a level crossing at a time where Network Rail are trying to close them all. Also, the Brampton Valley Way is now an extremely popular leisure route that would lose a great deal (if not all) of its amenity – even with just a single track reinstated. Whilst this may be a good idea from a transport perspective, there are many economic and human factors to overcome. A transport investment may be better directed in a high quality rail hopper bus/coach, direct (perhaps with limited stops) between Market Harborough station and Northampton station, or Market Harborough to Rugby station – or both.

    Comment by Bern | April 27, 2021 | Reply

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