England

Least used railway station Redcar British Steel gets visitor boost

Redcar British Steel station Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Redcar British Steel station saw 320 more visitors in 2018-19 than the year before

Hundreds of people visiting Britain's least used railway station may have saved it from the title this year, according to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

Redcar British Steel station saw 360 entries and exits during 2018-19, up from just 40 the year before.

Two railway stations in north-west England have inherited the title.

Stanlow and Thornton in Cheshire and Denton in Greater Manchester had 46 entries and exits each in 2018-19.

The ORR said Redcar British Steel "may have attracted visitors" because of being named the least used station in the 2017-18 rankings.

The station closed to the public in December 2019 but the new figures only cover up to the end of March.

Usage fell after the nearby SSI steel plant in Teesside shut in 2015.

Image copyright Geoff Marshall
Image caption Geoff Marshall (left), pictured with his friend Rob Thomas, has been to the least visited stations of 34 English counties

One of Redcar British Steel's visitors over the last year was Geoff Marshall, from London.

Mr Marshall has a YouTube channel dedicated to visiting stations across the UK and says he has nearly completed a challenge to go to the least visited station in every English county.

"It's a great way to explore the country," Mr Marshall said.

"There's also a fascination with why certain rarely used stations exist.

"You research the history and in some cases the world has changed and communities have moved on."

"It's great going to small, lesser seen places in the country," he said. "It's an adventure."

Image copyright Dr Lewis Owens
Image caption Lewis Owens said going to the least used station with his son, Danill, was a "family tradition"

For 12-year-old Danill Owens visiting the least-used station is an annual tradition.

His father Lewis, of Ruislip, Middlesex, said: "It is a family tradition to visit the least-used station each year.

"Danill has a huge fascination with trains."

Although there "wasn't a great deal to see" at the site, the 47-year-old said it was sad to see the SSI plant in the background, showing "the loss of the steel industry" in the area.

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At the scene

Paul Burnell, BBC News

Image caption Denton station saw just 46 entries and exits in 2018-19

Where will enthusiasts who like to boost the passenger numbers of Britain's loneliest stations want to go next?

One stop on the list is Denton station in Tameside, Greater Manchester.

Along with Stanlow and Thornton station in Cheshire just 46 passengers were recorded in the year ending March 2019.

And it looks like the kind of place even tumbleweed snubs.

Image caption There is only one train per week in each direction at Denton, both on Saturdays

Tucked behind a bus stop near a motorway flyover you enter via a steep set of metal stairs.

Once on the platform there are just two benches, no shelter and no toilets.

There are signs that human life has passed by as discarded cans lie on the track and takeaway food cartons are sprinkled under the bridge.

Yet some people clearly do care for this forlorn outpost of the rail network.

The Friends Of Denton Station have planted three flower beds to bring a semblance of colour to somewhere that looks particularly bleak on a wet and windy January day.

Image caption Flower beds tended by the Friends Of Denton Station show someone still visits

London Waterloo remained the most used station, with more than 94 million entries and exits in the last year.

Cardiff Central was the busiest station in Wales with 14.2 million entries and exits. Sugar Loaf in Powys recorded the fewest passengers with 708.

Barry Links in Angus was Scotland's least used with 122 entries and exits, while Glasgow Central was the most used with nearly 32.8 million.

The estimates are largely based on ticket sales.

'No demand'

Many stations are kept open despite being rarely used because it is easier to arrange for a train to stop infrequently than obtain permission to close a station.

Rail operator Northern said it was contractually obliged to run a minimum level of services to the rarely visited stations, but there was "no demand" and "low usage" in those areas.

Least used stations in Britain

Passenger entries and exits, 2018-19

Source: Office of Rail and Road

Previous stations to hold the title of least used in Britain include Barry Links in 2016-17 and Teesside Airport, Darlington, between 2012 and 2014.

Shippea Hill, in Cambridgeshire was the least used for two years but received a boost in passengers after Great British Bake Off finalist Ian Cumming offered mince pies to people who disembarked at the station on Christmas Eve 2016.

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