Sunday 5 August 2018

Why are there no trains in Derby this summer?

Belper train passengers will already be aware of the engineering works in Derby Station this summer and the bad news is that it will be getting worse before it gets any better. London trains reduced to one an hour (then none for seven days), No trains to Chesterfield or Sheffield, No Cross Country trains to north or south, the Matlock train only runs to Derby (later, no service at all for over a month). For detailed information about dates and bus replacements go to

Travel in 1850 (Old Station at Derby, North Midland Railway)

Cuthbert Hamilton Ellis (1909–1987)

National Railway Museum

So why is this happening?

Derby Station was opened in 1839 as the southern terminus of the North Midland Railway linking Leeds, Rotherham, Chesterfield and Derby (Sheffield was added soon after). Since that time railway routes and services have developed to a degree that would be unrecognisable to the early railway pioneers; Derby station growing to accommodate the extra traffic with additional platforms and tracks. Unfortunately, all this growth created a bottleneck to the south of the station, a two track section through which all passenger and many freight trains had to run (marked on the diagram below with a black circle). It is the elimination of this bottleneck and the installation of modern signalling that is being undertaken this summer.

To understand this bottleneck I have marked the 3 distinctive routes and services as:

  • Red = Cross Country services running southwest to northeast.
  • Brown = Services that run between Nottingham and Birmingham (reversing in Derby)
  • Green = East Midlands trains serving London, Chesterfield and Sheffield.
  • The Matlock <> Newark and the Derby <> Crewe trains have been omitted  to aid clarity.

If all goes to plan the work will be completed by 7th October with all trains running normally from the following day. The new layout separates the three principal routes at the southern end of the station which will have a major, beneficial effect on timekeeping and capacity. Passengers will find that their trains may well be routed through different platforms:

  • Red: Cross Country trains will now use platforms 1 and 2.
  • Brown: Nottingham <> Birmingham trains will use platforms 3 and 4
  • Green: East Midlands London <> Sheffield trains using platforms 5 and 6 but it should be noted that what has become platform 5 was formally platform 6. Platform 6 is now located on the newly built island platform. (The old platform 5 was a south facing bay platform that has now been taken out of use). 
  • Matlock train: There seems to be no reason why the arrival in Derby should not be on the new platform 6 but the train to Matlock may well be moved from platform 2b to 3, 4 or 5 Time will tell.
  • Freights will no doubt continue to be threaded through the station using the most favourable route at that time but we will no longer see freights from the north destined for the Birmingham route being looped on the Pride Park side of the station.

A wasted opportunity to electrify the route

The original intention was to electrify the East Midlands route through Derby during this blockade, in time for the St.Pancras to Sheffield services to change to electric trains by Autumn 2019. The governments cancellation of this scheme is particularly galling. The blockade would have been an ideal time to electrify the route up to Ambergate but now this will not happen.

I have heard it said that heritage problems such as the bridges at Belper were a deciding factor in the cancellation but this was not so (previous BelperStuff post on why the East Midlands electrification was cancelled). There are many ways in which the railway could have been electrified through Belper and Ambergate with no undo expenditure or adverse effect on heritage assets. What a wasted opportunity.


Don't forget:

  • No direct trains to London between 13th and 19th August (bus to East Midlands Parkway from Derby station) otherwise it's one train per hour up to October 7th.
  • Matlock train does not run to Nottingham and worse, does not run at all from 25th August to October 7th (again a substitute bus service)
  • No rail services between Derby and Nottingham, Crewe, Birmingham, Sheffield until 2nd September (yup you've guessed it - replacement buses)
Hopefully I've made no mistakes and all the above information is accurate but don't forget that reliable updates on travel ca be gleaned from East Midlands Trains here or go to National Rail Enquiries.

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