Airport rail station 'had only 14 passengers in year'

Image caption,
Rail enthusiasts are the main users of a weekly service through Denton station

Some of Britain's mainline railway stations are being used by fewer than 30 people a year, a new study suggests.

Researchers for the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) counted just 14 passengers at Teesside Airport station, in Darlington, in 2011-12.

Dorking West in Surrey had 16 passengers, while Denton in Greater Manchester had 30, their report says.

But passenger groups and some of the companies running services at the stations have questioned the figures.

The estimates are based on station exits and entrances in the 12 months ending March 2012.

First Great Western and the Department for Transport pointed out that passengers getting on and off at one of the stations named in the report might not necessarily have bought their tickets at that station, which could explain the low numbers.

James Davis, a spokesman for First Great Western, said: "This is an anomaly in their accounting system which is not reflective of the true numbers of people using Dorking West."

User statistics for Dorking West suggest nearly everyone buys their train ticket from the town's two other stations, Dorking and Dorking Deepdene.

'Ghost trains'

In the previous year, according to the ORR study compiled by transport consultants Steer Davies Gleave, Teesside Airport had only 18 passengers, Dorking West had 22 and Denton had 52.

Denton has just one train a week - a one-way Friday morning service that runs between Stockport and Stalybridge.

Northern Rail, which runs the Denton service, said it was legally obliged to keep the station open.

"It was part of our rail franchise agreement that we would keep this Denton service going in order to keep the line open," a spokeswoman said.

"These particular services are known by some as ghost trains."

Alan Jones, chairman of the Friends of Denton Station group, said the service was "mainly used by rail enthusiasts".

But he questioned the ORR's estimates, saying between 20 and 30 people use the service every week.

"I'm sure that if there were more trains people would use them," he said.

Teesside Airport station is also part of the Northern Rail network and, like Denton, is operated as part of the company's franchise agreement.

The station - a 15-minute walk from the airport, now known as Durham Tees Valley airport - has only two trains a week, which call on Sundays.

Northern Rail said the station was not convenient for those using the airport and there were plans to relocate it.

A Department for Transport spokesman added: "Local train services play an important role in linking communities and connecting people with their places of work and leisure."

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