Huddersfield railway station is one of Britain’s finest, in my opinion. It retains its original neo-classical façade and its platform canopies. It sits in front of a large paved public space called St Georges Square, with fountains. It is also home to not one, but two good real ale pubs at either side of the entrance. And it’s home to a cat called Felix.
I’ve met Felix before, although I’ve never managed to get a photo of her. She’s usually found on platform one and has been at the station for a few years now, having been adopted by the staff there.
Last year, as part of an internal refurbishment of the station which saw a new ticket office and the installation of lifts, ticket barriers were installed to cut down on ticketless travel. Huddersfield is a focal point for the Transpennine Ale Trail thanks to the aforementioned pubs, and it’s a terminus for several local train services, so ensuring that everyone entering or leaving the station has a ticket is important. Which is fine for humans, but not so good if you’re a cat who doesn’t have opposable thumbs and can’t reach the slot to insert a ticket.
So, First Transpennine Express, the train company that managed the station, installed a cat flap:
Naturally it was a minor story in the news last year, timed to be released during the quieter political period in the summer. As well as drumming up some interest for the station it also reinforced the news that ticket barriers had been installed, putting a positive spin on a controversial subject matter.
But despite my cynicism I think it’s genuinely a nice thing to do, and gives that station some character – something that modern railway stations lack. Perhaps the team at Huddersfield want to emulate the success of Tama, the station master cat at Kishi station in Japan who attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year.