Saturday 18 May 2013

Cobblers at Wembley

For those who like looking at pictures of preserved buses, a complete (?) set of all the vehicles attending Sheffield's 100th Anniversary rally last Sunday can be viewed (here):-
Cobblers to London Midland.
The Privatised Railway meets the challenge of a busy day.
[material from our Northampton Correspondent]
fbb has never been a great lover of sport; or, for that matter, a great participator therein. Perhaps that is why fbb is f? Apparently today is a big day for Northampton Town football club. And the "big match" is at Wembley which is just a short hop on the train from the home town of the evocatively named "Cobblers".

So, heading for Wembley today?
Here's good advice from the London Midland website:-

Trains between Northampton and London will be extremely busy on Saturday 18 May as up to 10,000 Cobblers fans take to the rails for their journey to Wembley ...

... for the npower League 2 Play-Off Final against Bradford City.

London Midland will be providing as much extra capacity as possible to help everyone get to the game on time. However, non-match goers are being advised to avoid London-bound trains before midday (as well as evening departures from Euston between 4.30pm and 7.30pm) due to anticipated crowding.

But we probably won't give them that  helpful snippet of information when they buy their tickets! After all, it is on the web site.

Longer trains
Although there are 13 trains from Northampton to London between 0730 and 1150, they all start from Birmingham, which means many are already over half full by the time they arrive at Northampton. Where possible, we will be attaching extra carriages to these trains at Northampton. However, we still have to provide carriages for the other 1,200 trains we run across our network on a Saturday, so not all departures from Northampton will benefit.

Extra trains
As we have limited spare carriages of our own, we have also hired a number of extra trains from other operators, including Virgin Trains. This will allow us to run additional non-stop services from Northampton to London approximately half-hourly between 8am and 10.30am, returning from Euston between 4.50pm and 7.50pm. Each of these 11/12 carriage trains will be able to carry over 800 people (normal tickets will be valid).

Sounds quite good; and there is a station at Wembley Central. Not ideal for the stadium but on the direct railway line from Northampton.
It has been described by local residents as "an ill-equipped, half-built, incomplete station with inadequate facilities and a leaky roof" but at least it avoids getting tangled up in Central London. And there are plenty of buses, namely services 83, 92, 182, 223, 224 and 297. These provide nearly 50 buses an hour between station and the stadium area!
An walking is quite straightforward.

So what does London Midland offer?

Wembley Central station is also unable to accommodate our longest trains, so only a handful of London Midland services will stop there before the match. There will be no London Midland services from Wembley Central after the match, so please head for London Euston for your train home.

So where am I going?
We recommend that you take the first available train to London Euston then take the Metropolitan Line from Euston Square to Wembley Park (which is adjacent to the stadium). Wembley Central station (between Watford Junction and London Euston) is a 20-25 minute walk from the stadium, so it is quicker to travel via Euston and the Metropolitan Line.

No it isn't!

And we wouldn't expect London Midland to think of advising about buses, would we? And, surprise, surprise, the fares will be more expensive for the diversion via Euston and Euston Square.

And opposition fans (from Bradford) will arrive at Kings Cross and, guess what, take the very same Metropolitan Line trains to Wembley Park.

Alan, our correspondent, summarises London Midland's advice.

1) Wave to the stadium as you go through Wembley Central without stopping.

2) Try not to start a punch up with the Bradford City fans on the trains from Kings Cross and Euston Square to and from Wembley Park

3) Spend more cash than you should to go the long way round.

4) We would prefer it if the rest of you didn't go to London next Saturday

5) Coach travel is quite nice you know.

6) Buses? What are buses? Do they have buses in London?

Enjoy the match.

The sad truth of the matter is revealed upon further examination of  Wembley Central Station's facilities. Despite the station's usefulness for events at the stadium etc., despite there being plenty of buses, Network Rail, London Midland, Virgin Trains, Boris and/or Jim Scroggs (station manager) have let the platforms on the fast lines deteriorate to a state where they are "unusable".
So, rather than fettle them up and make things easy for passengers we simply say ...
... tough bananas, footy fans; go via central London at additional expense, additional hassle and additional journey time.

 Next Bus Blog : Sunday 19th May 


  1. ... and they wonder why people don't use public transport!

    Surely it's not a major investment to make Wembley Central more useful, even if it is only used infrequently.

  2. Two observations:-
    1) Surely it's easier/cheaper to interchange to LO services at Watford Junction rather than go to Euston and double-back? That's assuming that Northampton-London trains stop at Watford Jtn of course.....
    2) Granted there are various frequent bus services between Wembley Central and the Stadium. Unfortunately on match days both Wembley High Road and the stadium area tend to get highly congested (sheer volume of traffic and pedestrians) so in practice it's quicker to walk to reach the stadium (10-15 minutes).

    1. You could make them all call at Harrow & Wealdstone, where then LO AND Bakerloo line trains are available...