Wedgwood Jesus Do?

Photo of Wedgwood station sign, at an odd angleAfter Barlaston, our next and final station – Wedgwood – was just a short distance away. Ian suggested we walk there using the towpath of the canal, which runs parallel to the railway line.

A few minutes in, we realised this was a bad decision. We were in the middle of a cold snap, and while the roads and pavements in Barlaston itself had been mostly clear of snow and ice, the towpath was shaded from the feeble sun by trees and hedges, leaving it in a decidedly treacherous state. Slipping on ice is never a dignified way to get injured, and it’s even less appealing when there is a body of freezing water adjacent.

Photo showing iced-over canal towpath in BarlastonWe pressed on, walking on the grass verges in parts where the towpath was just too dangerous. We passed a few other hardy souls, mostly dog-walkers (judging by the amount of excrement we dodged, this is a popular dog-walking route). There were alarming signs at regular intervals, warning anglers to avoid this stretch of canal, lest their rods get tangled in the overhead power cables strung in the adjacent field.

The sereneness was disturbed every few minutes by trains roaring past – an assortment of Pendolinos, Desiros and Voyagers. The frequency of services on the busy Manchester to Stafford line is such that the local service has been squeezed out of the timetable, leaving Wedgwood, like its neighbour Barlaston, without a train service.

Photo of Wedgwood Factory as seen from the road near Wedgwood stationLeaving the canal towpath, we emerged into the Wedgwood estate itself. The Wedgwood factory was relocated here in the 1940s, and the station was opened by British Railways specifically to serve the employees. The factory has declined in importance but still employs a few hundred people. No chance of them commuting here by rail now, though – no trains have called here since 2004.

High-end crockery aside, there is not much of interest at Wedgwood. Like Barlaston, the platforms have been fenced off to prevent access. Unlike Barlaston, most of the signage has been removed, including the entrance sign bearing the double arrow logo, and there are no buildings or shelters on the platform. Older photos of the station show it with shelters and BR sign, so it seems that they have been removed relatively recently.

Photo of Wedgwood Station

The lack of signage meant I had to be content with a photo taken while standing next to the “Welcome to Wedgwood” poster. Needs must, etc.

Photo of Robert in front of the "Welcome to Wedgwood" poster

Really, there’s not much to see here except trains, of which there are plenty. In the ten minutes or so we were there, the level crossing barriers were lowered three times, and on each occasion two trains passed, one in each direction.

Photo of London Midland Desiro passing non-stop through Wedgwood stationI couldn’t resist taking a few pictures as the express trains passed through. As Ian and I snapped away, Scott rolled his eyes in a mixture of disgust and pity, but… I’m used to that.

The frequency of trains caught us out at one point. As we were getting ready to leave, the barriers suddenly closed, leaving Ian stuck on the opposite side of the railway to Scott and I. This would have been amusing had I not been worrying about missing the bus to Stoke (we didn’t).

As we walked to the bus stop, I found myself questioning the need for Wedgwood to exist. The only source of traffic is the factory – otherwise, Barlaston is very close and has many more potential passengers on the doorstep. If I had to pick one station to reopen, it would be Barlaston.

Photo of Cross Country Voyager at speed, approaching WedgwoodMy usual caveats about closing stations apply – if Wedgwood has to close, do it properly, with formal closure notices and an opportunity for locals to object. Don’t padlock the station, run a bus and pretend that’s OK.

Visiting Wedgwood, Barlaston and Norton Bridge convinced me even more of the need for High Speed 2. Opponents of the scheme say that more capacity could be squeezed out of the existing WCML, and they may be right – but at what cost? Three stations have already been sacrificed for the sake of faster and more frequent services. To expand capacity elsewhere could well require more of the smaller stations to be closed or reduced to Parliamentary level of service.

Killing local services to concentrate on express routes was the basic principle behind the Beeching report of the 1960s. It was wrong then and wrong now. HS2 will allow us to have a new high speed route and viable local trains to serve the community. We get the best of both worlds, and that’s got to be a good thing, right?

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2 thoughts on “Wedgwood Jesus Do?

  1. It’s rather ridiculous isn’t it? Really, how can it be more expensive to just keep paying for buses for years and years and years rather than close down the station. everyone’s just too scared to bite the bullet and try and close them

    Maybe in 20 years time though, we’ll have HS2 (cos no matter what the anti-lobby think, it’s going to need some serious work to stop it) and someone will come along and look again at these stations. Seems unlikely, but I’d bet that by then, the stations will still be “open”!

  2. Hi Just chanced upon this blog post when looking up something about the now formalised proposal to close Norton Bridge – good post well written and good points made!

    Funnily enough though, I recall back in about 2000, before it closing, using this station to visit the then Wedgwood Visitor centre – I recall getting off at the station (no one else did) and walking through the factory back entrance (it was well signposted) to this great visitor centre that I would recommend to anyone, I rounded the corner and there were about 6 large coaches of international tourists from USA and Japan visiting the factory! That would have been plenty of customers for the station.

    The visitor centre offered a discount to rail ticket holders (but the receptionist didn’t even know the station existed at the back of her workplace!)

    Fast forward to 2 years ago and I wanted to visit the Wedgwood Museum with some friends, not having been there for 15 years. By now it has been rebuilt with a massive lottery grant and is a really impressive on site museum facility, in fact I’d say world class – esp if you are interested in ceramic and ceramic art – you’d think plenty of potential for rail based visitors, we walked along the Canal from Stone station.

    But you are correct –if only one station can be re-opened it’s probably best for the local people for that to be Barlaston.

    But Wedgewood has plenty of theoretical potential given the museum location.

    Last time I was there much of the factory had closed down since my visit in 2000. It looked like a lot was being converted into a housing estate. Plenty of customers for commuting places by rail you would think!

    Cheers
    D

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