Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Rovers returning to Denton?

Denton Station
This is a screenshot of the National Rail Enquiries website, specifically the ‘transport links’ section of the information page for Denton station in South Manchester. If you can’t read the screenshot, or if the page gets changed, it says the following:

Location for Rail Replacement Services: Outside the Rovers Return on Coronation Street

For those who are not familiar with British TV shows, the Rovers Return Inn is a fictional pub in the soap Coronation Street. Though the soap is set and filmed in Manchester, there is no such street anywhere near Denton station.

It’s therefore likely that someone at National Rail Enquiries, or whoever supplies the data, had a little joke, because it’s highly unlikely Denton will ever have replacement bus services (or at least, not in the near future). Denton station is currently only served by one train per week, currently running during the daytime on Fridays, on a service between Stalybridge and Stockport. The station itself has just one platform, and there aren’t even any signs there – just a bench and some lights.

SJ9195 : Denton Railway Station by Eifion Bedford
Denton Railway Station © Copyright Eifion Bedford and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

It was never always like this. Back in the early 1990s, the Stockport to Stalybridge line saw a regular service. This was because trans-pennine trains from Leeds would call at Manchester Victoria, which only serves other local and regional services. Mainline services to London and Scotland instead departed from the bigger Manchester Piccadilly, and so this service allowed those wanting to travel from Leeds to destinations south of Manchester to bypass the city and connect with mainline services at Stockport.

But the trans-pennine trains were diverted to Manchester Piccadilly in the 1990s and Metrolink started operating in 1992, and so this service was seen as largely unnecessary. But because the trains on this route were the only ones that called at Denton, and Reddish South further along the line, the decision was taken to keep a minimum service running to avoid the legal processes of formally closing the stations. Thus, the service that now runs is a ‘Parliamentary train‘, to maintain the ‘legal fiction‘ that the station is open when in fact it is all-but closed.

There are at least 10 stations in the UK which are served by one service per week to keep them open. Some others have been closed ‘temporarily’, which means that no trains need call there but a designated rail replacement bus operates. A recent example was the Watford and Rickmansworth railway in North London – closed in 1996 but it was still possible to buy train tickets to it nearly 10 years later. Thankfully that line may have a future as the proposed Croxley Rail Link.

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