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Shippea Hill station: How mince pies gave the least used station a boost

image copyrightAshley Dace/Geograph
image captionShippea Hill is a request stop with trains stopping 12 hours apart

Once the loneliest rail station in Britain, with just 12 passengers in a year, Shippea Hill has now seen the biggest percentage growth in Britain.

Visits to the station rocketed 1,200%, according to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

It said there were 156 entries and exits at the station in 2016-17.

Great British Bake Off finalist Ian Cumming offered mince pies to people who disembarked at the station on Christmas Eve 2016.

The station in Cambridgeshire has just two trains a day, 12 hours apart.

Yet thanks to publicity surrounding its lonely status, the station saw the biggest percentage growth of any on the rail network.

image copyrightIan Cumming
image captionThe mince pie event at Shippea Hill attracted 16 people - more than the number that visited the station in the last year

Mr Cumming encouraged people to join him at the station by promising them mince pies, some with a Viennese topping.

That resulted in 16 people visiting Shippea Hill on 24 December, more than it had had in the whole of 2015-16.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionIan Cumming was a contestant on the Great British Bake Off in 2015

Mr Cumming, from Great Wilbraham in Cambridgeshire, said he was "delighted to have skewed some official statistics".

"I had never been there in my life until last Christmas Eve and just decided we should give that station some love," he said.

"There's a good reason it's the loneliest station, though. It's flat. The horizon goes on and on and there's nothing to do there."

He said he took his bicycle and he and his fellow passengers then cycled away as otherwise they would have been waiting 12 hours until 19:27 GMT.

In June 2017, more than 20 people visited as part of a challenge set by Geoff Marshall and Vicki Pipe, who were attempting to visit 2,563 stations in three months.

However, that effort would not count in the 156 visits to Shippea Hill as the figures only go up to the end of March 2017.

The station was first opened in 1845.

The loneliest station in Britain is now Barry Links in Scotland, which had 24 entries and exits. England's quietest station was Teesside Airport, with 30 entries and exits, down from 98 the year before. Shippea Hill is now the 14th quietest station. London's Waterloo station is the busiest with more than 99 million entries and exits.

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