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Wednesday 6 May 2009

Station Sellout – Take 4

Previously, I’ve noted how the railway has been less than open about plans to close lines and stations, right up to the present day. Here I’ll show that the concept of less than total honesty extends to the concept of moving station locations.

In the late 60s, British Rail (BR) ran two stations at Gloucester. One of these – Eastgate – was used by what we nowadays call Cross Country (XC) services, those running from Bristol and the South West to Birmingham and beyond. But at one end of Eastgate was a level crossing that was causing increasing delays to town traffic. To eliminate the crossing, and concentrate traffic on just one station, Eastgate was closed. This meant that XC services now had to reverse direction when making their Gloucester stop.

At first this worked fine, but a quick reversal meant changing engines, and this in turn involved keeping a stabling and refuelling point nearby. As costs came under pressure, push came to shove, the stabling point closed, and most XC trains just missed out Gloucester altogether. But then someone had a great idea. A new station was proposed for Barnwood, outside Gloucester, but on the route taken by XC services. At first this looked like a good idea, until the questions started.

What would happen to the station in Gloucester? How would travellers transfer between the old and new stations? If by train, what was the difference between transferring to Barnwood and transferring to nearby Cheltenham Spa? Wasn’t Barnwood too close to Cheltenham Spa for XC to bother to service both?

The Barnwood proposal was quietly dropped. A similar fate befell another great new station idea, this time for Birmingham. New Street station was near capacity, so a new station, called Heartlands, was proposed, out of town to the North East. Again, the questions kept coming: what about getting between the two stations? Which services would serve which stations? What about car parking, access roads, bus services?

Once again, the apparently great idea turned out to be poorly thought out, and did not survive serious examination. Also, the thought entered that an element of presenting the travelling public with a fait accompli was involved.

And that brings us up to date, and back to Crewe.

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