NETWORK RAIL is preparing a test train ahead of testing the new overhead electrification equipment installed between Bedford and Corby as part of the Midland main line project.

Both pans up: Nos 91122 and 91128 back on their old stomping ground near Retford on 24 April 2020 with a test run from Peterborough Eastfield to Doncaster of the formation that will be used to test the new overhead electrification on the Midland main line.
Dafydd Whyles

NR is working with Data Acquisition and Testing Services and Rail Operations Group on the testing programme. It says the train has been developed ‘to give the most flexible approach to a very demanding set of performance requirements’ that need to be met to certify the new MML equipment.

Two Class 91s displaced from duties with LNER, Nos 91122 and 91128, will be used for the testing, along with a Class 90. The train will be configurable in multiple formations to test operation with either one or two pantographs at up to 125mph and with three pantographs at up to 110mph. The latter test is required as East Midlands Railway will operate Class 360s modified for 110mph operation in formations of up to 12 carriages in length (3x4-car), while five-car Class 810 bi-modes delivered in 2022 will operate at up to 125mph either singly or in pairs. Mk 3 coaches will be used on the test train to provide the required distances between the pantographs.

Initial tests on the MML, which began in April (p20, last month), have been diesel-hauled to confirm gauge clearance and prove the operational characteristics of the shorter train formation and vehicles. During April and May test runs on the East Coast main line proved operation of the Class 91s at up to 125mph for braking and for operation with two pantographs, which has not been required in anger since the class’s testing prior to introduction into service some three decades ago.

Modified pantographs will be fitted to the ‘91s’ before electric testing begins on the MML, with the East Coast tests intended to enable any difficulties to be resolved before this takes place. NR reported in early May that the new pantographs had been delivered and were being fitted out prior to completion of the remaining pre-tests. The ‘91s’ were to then go for their next maintenance exam before being fitted with the modified pantographs shortly afterwards.

Asked when electric testing on the MML would begin, NR told Modern Railways the test schedule was being reviewed against the completion programme for installation of the overhead wires. Class 360s had been due to join EMR’s fleet in August to begin testing ahead of entering service between St Pancras and Corby in December, but the electric service is now expected to begin in May 2021.


Meanwhile, ground investigation works are taking place on the planned extension of the electrification from Kettering to Market Harborough. The extension is part of Key Output 1a of the MML programme and is the preferred solution to connect the Bedford to Corby stretch to the power supply feed at Braybrooke, south of Market Harborough, which was chosen before electrification north of Kettering was cancelled in 2017. Van Elle Rail Division reports it is working with Strata Geotechnics on the ground investigation programme, which has involved rotary coring and dynamic sampling to obtain samples and establish geotechnical parameters that will be used for designing the overhead line equipment foundations. Network Rail told Modern Railways it is ‘looking into the viability of options which would enable electric trains to run from Market Harborough to London’ and continues to work with the Department for Transport and train operators on this and other future investment plans.