Operator: East Midlands Trains Headcode: 1P99 Route: DBY – COR Class: First Seat: G12 Date: Tuesday 20th August 2019
After my underwhelming trip from London to the Midlands with East Midlands Railway (read about that here), I was looking forward to giving them another two attempts the following day. Therefore in the early afternoon of Tuesday 20th August I headed back to Derby station to take one of the rare trains that arrives into Corby from the north, 1P99, the 1627 Derby – Kettering service. After a planned arrival into Corby at 1747, I’d then have just under an hours wait until I took the 1837 Corby shuttle back down to London St. Pancras which will be covered in a later blog.
As with my northbound journey, I had been able to get first class tickets for this trip and so upon arrival at Derby headed to the first class lounge on platforms 6 and 7 to see how it compared to the lounge at St. Pancras. Overall the lounge is in much better condition than it’s counterpart at St. Pancras with the added addition of lots of natural light afforded by it’s position on the platforms and its glass walls with privacy screens. As with the St. Pancras lounge, the Derby lounge offered tea, coffee, juice and water as well as a selection of snacks. A slight criticism I have of this lounge are the facts that the plug sockets are on the floor under the seats resulting in me scrabbling around on the floor to plug my charger in. Also, the two seats that provided a suitable space for working did not have any power sockets nearby. Other than this slight issue, I found the lounge perfectly adequate and the natural light gave it a much better atmosphere than some other lounges.
The train forming the service to Corby and Kettering comes to Derby from the neighbouring depot at Etches Park, presumably after spending the day undergoing maintenance. The train arrived into the platform about 5 minutes prior to departure, allowing plenty of time to get settled before our journey began. En route to Kettering the service is scheduled to call at East Midlands Parkway, Melton Mowbray, Oakham and Corby, with the latter being where I planned to alight.
Shortly after departure from Derby a member of the on-board crew came through first-class checking tickets and offering drinks and snacks. Apart from the advertised breakfast services, the first class offering on East Midlands Railway is rather basic with the choice of hot or cold soft drinks and a small range of snacks. In addition to this, according to the menu on their website, you can purchase additional food or alcoholic beverages, however I could see no mention of this on-board and it was too early for me to investigate this option for dinner.
This service makes use of little used (by passenger services) Syston North Curve which has a speed limit of 20mph. Due to this after passing through Barrow-upon-Soar and Sileby at high speed, our speed greatly reduced as we crossed onto the slow lines approaching the junction and curve. Having passed round the curve, we continue on the eastern section of the Birmingham to Peterborough line as far as Manton Junction with Melton Mowbray and Oakham lying in between. Just to the west of Melton Mowbray station is the junction to disused sidings which still partially remain, including rails that now run into the station car park.
Melton Mowbray is famous as the home of Melton Mowbray pork pies, and is also home to one of the six licences makers of Stilton cheese. The town and it’s surroundings are home to 28 scheduled ancient monuments, over 700 buildings listed as having special architectural or historical interest, and 16 sites of special scientific interest, so the town is certainly worth a visit if you can! The Borough of Melton’s website has a great page about visiting the town with various leaflets and brochures to download.
Having arrived into Melton Mowbray about 6 minutes early, we had an extended stop here whilst ‘waiting for the timetable to catch up with us’. Continuing east we passed through the Leicestershire countryside before entering Rutland and stopping at the country town, Oakham. Whilst Oakham sees hourly CrossCountry services (you can read my review of one of those here), the county of Oakham is served by only six ‘intercity’ services a day. One return trip is formed of a morning service to Derby as well as an evening return (this is the train I was on), whilst the other two pairs provide the county’s only direct link to the capital.
Just to the south of Oakham station and Rutland water the Birmingham to Peterborough lines curves to continue heading east, whilst we continued south and entered the Oakham to Kettering Line. This line is primarily a freight line with only the six ‘intercity’ services that call at Oakham using the line each day. Whilst little used by passenger services, the line is home to one of Britain’s railway gems, the 82 arch Grade II listed, Welland Viaduct. The viaduct is over 1100m long and is the longest masonry viaduct across a valley in the UK having been built in just 13 months!
Arriving into Corby brought the first leg of my journey home to a close and the end to what is likely to be a rare journey for me across the Welland Viaduct. The Corby station I arrived at is infact the third iteration of this station, with the first closing in 1966 as part of the Beeching cuts and the second being operational for just three years between 1987 and 1990. The current station opened in 2009, initially with just one return train each day, however within months of it’s opening a full hourly service was in operation. This hourly service has remained constant over the past decade, however further improvement is soon to come to Corby with electrification and a half hourly service to London in late 2020.
Due to the unique nature of this service from Derby to Kettering, I didn’t expect any service in first-class and so the frequent drinks and snacks offering by the Train Manager was greatly appreciated. East Midlands Railway’s lounge at Derby is in a much better condition than it’s London counterpart and the large amounts of natural light make it a nice place to relax for an hour and the Class 222 first-class seat is comfortable. The best thing about this journey for me was the friendly crew who went a long way to restoring my faith in the EMR friendliness after my previous disappointing journey.
Lounge 4* Seat/Facilities 4* Food 3* Service 5* Punctuality 5* Overall Rating 21/25 (read about my rating system here!)