Today, I caught the first train of the day to Heysham Port. Funnily enough, I also caught the last train of the day to Heysham Port. Yes, you’ve guessed it, they are one and the same, just one train a day creeps along that line from Morecambe. Though alright, it actually creeps along that line, having come all the way from Leeds, which is why I was on it.
In recent years, West Yorkshire Metro has run a special offer each winter, for all Metro cardholders, and the Seniors card as well, the opportunity to travel between Leeds, and either Carlisle (over the famous Settle & Carlisle line), or Morecambe (over a far less famous line!). This year, the return fare is £11, an absolute bargain compared to the full fare, believe me.
So, back in November, Eric and I headed off for our trip to Carlisle and back. Eric loves train journeys, his other half doesnt, so I take him with me on these trips. Me, I dont mind train journeys, especially ones not related to work, so it is quite a pleasure. Today, we set off on the other trip, the one to Morecambe…and beyond!
After a brief tactical visit to the buffet at Lancaster to get our lunch, we scampered back to the train, thankfully about 10 yards away, just as well really, as Eric cant walk that far, and certainly not fast. We should have had 9 minutes, but ended up with about 6, and made it with about 1 to spare! So, on to Morecambe. We actually went there last year, but no further, waiting there for the train to return from Heysham, while eating our lunch. As anyone who knows Morecambe station will tell you, there isnt a lot there, or nearby! And given its January, not August, well, lets say it wasnt a great thing to contemplate repeating.
So, we stayed on board, paid £2.90 return each, and travelled on to Heysham. Its a single track line, and there really is nothing at the other end, except for the port, and the ferry. And yes, thats why there is only 1 train a day, to connect with the ferry. It pulls in at 12.50, leaves about 1.15, and if you miss it, there will be a 24 hour delay to your journey lol! Well, I guess you could get a taxi to Morecambe, or Lancaster, but you get my drift, no more trains!
Now, before you think thats a pretty poor service, hear me out. Closer to home, there is a line between Stockport and Stalybridge, that has 1 train a week…in one direction only! On a Friday morning, at 10.13 it pulls out of Stockport, calling at 3 stations en route, before arriving at Stalybridge 22 minutes later. For 2 of those intermediate stations, its the only train of the week! Basically, its cheaper to run 1 train a week like that, than go through the formality of closing the line to passengers! Even more so nowadays, as it is popular with train fans, because of the lack of services!
Funnily enough, many railway lines in the US have just 1 train a day, but then you are talking very long journeys, like Seattle to Chicago, for example. The reason for that, with all the budget airlines nowadays, its as cheap to fly between those cities in 4 hours, than do it by train in 40! Not as scenic, but in these days of getting everywhere quickly…glad I did it the slow way though, in both directions.
The video, sort of a clue in the title. This song is SO old, I had no chance of finding a live version, so here’s a few trains instead
Yes, for 9 days from Saturday, travelling to and from work will become even more of a challenge than normal, or maybe not? Why, because the line between Huddersfield and Manchester will be closed, while dramatic work goes on to improve Stalybridge Station.
According to talk, and until the government change their minds, and decide we cant afford it, by the end of this decade (allegedly by about 2016, but…) the line between Manchester and York is going to be electrified, bringing faster, and more reliable trains to the cross pennine link. Also more trains an hour, though I dont see how they do that with the stopping trains serving stations both sides of Huddersfield to be honest, thrown into the mix.
Also, given the trains on our line go on to serve Liverpool and Manchester Airport at one end (neither electrified as far as I know), and Hull, Scarborough, Middlesbrough and Newcastle at the other (only Newcastle on a fully electrified line), I’m not sure how they are planning the timetables for all this? Unless TPE serve them as 2 limbs, with diesel trains, well I dont know? Seems unlikely, so… you tell me! The big snag as I see it, is currently while diesel trains can be diverted on to other local lines, electric trains wont be able to do so. So given that will mean buses, instead of slightly longer diversion routes, well that isnt going to speed things up!
Anyway, back to the issue in hand. Despite all these question marks, they’ve decided that Stalybridge Station needs an upgrade in advance of all this. Maybe it does, I’ve only ever passed through the station, so I have no idea. Seems OK for the amount of trains stopping there, but anyway… The snag is, to finish these works, they need no trains passing through for a while, so this is why chaos will rule for 9 days. Basically no trains will run through Stalybridge, so of the 4 trains an hour (daytime service) that wend between Manchester Picadilly and Leeds, 2 will run via the Calderdale loop from Manchester Victoria, and 2 will only run to Huddersfield. So yes, thats half my train service gone for a week lol. Mind, Manchester suffers the same fate, so…
The worst bit for me though, is going to be reliability. You see, there is 1 of those 4 Eastern links, to and from which train punctuality is a joke, Hull. And guess which one of the services we are stuck with, yes, thats one of them! The other snag for me, is that my main trains are the ones at 27 and 57 minutes past the hour, and guess what, they are the 2 that are vanishing for the week! Equally, coming home, its the 25 and 55, and yes, you’ve worked it out already lol. So journeys are going to take longer, probably be less reliable, so all in all, aargh! Also, in the evening, I tend to have fine margins for getting buses home, which dont run all that often at that time of night. Because these trains will use the island platform at Huddersfield, I’m going to have long hang around times, wonderful. Its why Thursday night when I’ll be late, after swooning at Louise Brooks in the cinema, I’ll be sweating on the last bus home if it takes a while getting out the cinema! Its why I’ve got Friday off, just in case of ‘entertainment’ in the form of trying to find a taxi after 11.00 at night!
Anyway, give it a few weeks, and I’ll let you know if I can see any difference at Stalybridge, as I fully intend to go to Manchester on my week off, 4 weeks from now. Money is currently on no, lol!
Finally, in tribute to dear old Stalybridge Station, here is a video showing the talent of a folk group from the past, Fivepenny Piece. Just to add, to avoid confusion, back then Stalybridge Town station was the end of a line. In the 1980’s they realigned the line between Leeds and Manchester, and it was promoted to the main line. Which is why its no longer neglected, and definitely not waiting to die. After next week, even more so after its makeover, I guess?