Welcome, watchers! Doesn’t it seem an age since the last time? Well, not for me perhaps, but you all look distinctly older.
OK, thanks Treguard, but I’ll take it from here.
It has been eight months since I gingerly ascended the steps of Bordesley station. This big gap in station visits wasn’t planned, but unfortunately that unpleasant thing known as “real life” intervened. I am working full-time and also studying at the Open University, so evenings and weekends have been increasingly taken up with school work.
There’s also the other issue that most of the easy stations – the ones I can get to via an easy day trip; the low-hanging fruit, if you will – have been ticked off. Most of my future visits are to stations where the only train service is early in the morning, or late in the evening, or otherwise unsuitably timed for a connection from Liverpool. This means hotel stays, which adds to the expense.
I could take a leaf out of the book of Andrew Dowd, a university student who visited all 2,548 stations in Britain. Seeing the headline in the Liverpool Echo, I was insanely envious of the man’s dedication… until I read down to the bottom of the story and discovered that he did it in his CAR.
His car. What’s the point of that? The golden rule of all my station visits (inherited from my guru, the incomparable Mersey Tart) is that I have to either arrive or leave by train. It makes things more difficult, of course, but it gives me a much greater appreciation of the geography of the area.
In his car. Pffft.
What else has been happening during my blogging interregnum? Well…
- Over the winter, severe weather damaged several railway lines that I previously visited, including those on the Isle of Wight and in Cornwall. It was very sad to see places I remembered fondly being slowly drowned, but the good news is that all the damage has been repaired and everything is back up and running.
- Woodlands Road, one of the very first stations I visited waay back in 2011, finally closed in December 2013.
- The platforms at Barlaston station have been cut back, making it even more unlikely that trains will stop here in the near future.
- The junction at Norton Bridge is to be remodelled by Network Rail. The plans don’t spell it out explicitly, but what’s left of the station is almost certain to be obliterated.
- The disused Croxley Green branch is being upgraded and will become part of London Underground’s Metropolitan Line from 2017. Sadly, this means the Network SouthEast signs have disappeared. I suspect this commenter on my friend Ian’s blog will also be upset.
- Angel Road station, conveniently located just off an expressway (via a footpath through a dank underpass) between several rubbish tips, will be upgraded to a “thriving new hub”, with a service of 4 trains per hour, and 0 murders per day.
- The pub at Berney Arms has got a new landlord. Not sure what happened to the friendly landlady who was there when I visited, but it’s good that there is still a place for weary ramblers to rest after trekking across the marshes.
- After I criticised the Network West Midlands sign font during my trip to Stourbridge, Merseyrail have now started using it on all their advertising, meaning I get to look at it all the time. Grrr.
Also, just today, the Department for Transport announced a consultation into the future of the Northern and Transpennine franchises. Responses are invited from individuals and organisations as to the shape of the new franchises from 2016; you have until 18th August to get your views in.
Reassuringly for fans of barely-used stations, the consultation document states categorically (at paragraph 6.12): “We are not considering line or station closures within this review of the franchise design.” Ominously, however, on the very next page, it goes on to say that the government is considering, “Reducing the number of stops at stations used by few people to accelerate the service for through passengers.”
Could there be even more Parliamentary stations come 2016? At the current rate, this will probably add an extra five years to my project.
I can’t promise how regular updates to this blog will be in the future. What I can tell you is that I am off to Newcastle on Thursday to stay for a few days. While there, I intend to hoover up some seldom-served North East stations. Come back this time next week to hear my thoughts on Chathill!
In his car. *shakes head*