Thursday 29 December 2022

Up The Pole At Polesworth (2)

So Why The On-Line Headline?

It is indeed true. Poor pretty Polesworth has a pathetic paucity of paying passengers. So low are the passenger numbers that the Strategic Rail Authority (when we had one) wanted to close the station. It all seems strange because the village has expanded significantly in recent years and the once somewhat remote station now borders on a northwards expanding block of attractive commuter housing.
Polesworth's train service has never been what you might call attractive. fbb remembers his passionate teenage desire, well before the "electric string" reached the Northampton loop, to travel on an AM4 unit along the Trent Valley route and thus via Polesworth,
He found, to his frustration, that there were only half a dozen stopping trains a day from Rugby northbound and, as is the way with transport operators, they ran at the convenience of British Rail and not for the convenience of connecting passengers from Northampton.

Much later, this stopping service was diverted to run, not from Rugby, but from Coventry on the newly opened lined to Nuneaton. There were then just five trains which stopped at Polesworth.

But this rather poor service does not explain the 136 passengers in the most recent year's statistics. It equates to less than half a passenger per day.

What went up the pole at Polesworth?
The textbooks tell you that as part of the West Coast main line power "upgrade" (c 2006), contractors removed the footbridge and did not put it back. This makes it sound like a piece of Notwork Rail gross incompetence but fbb suspects there was a good reason for its removal.
The above hulking gert gantry carries, not signals, not just the electric string, but great big cables to feed extra juice into the overhead. This would enable Mr Branson's (ex Mr B) much improved service to run at full speed and at the best possible frequency.

The gantry is roughly where the footbridge was.

The decision NOT to replace the footbridge was presumably part of a cunning plan to close the station. Its service of five trains a day to nowhere in particular and with poor connections southbound to Euston and northbound to lots of lovely places had already led to a decline in use.

Now there would be no southbound platform and no southbound service!.

So why not shut it down.

Unfortunately, politics being what they are, closing a station, however ill-used, generates opprobrium and loss of votes at the next available election. So they cannot possibly close it.

What they could do, however, is to provide an utterly useless service in one direction only (northbound) so the numbers will decline and closure will be more acceptable.

So they did and they did.
Overall, the most recent timetable for the Trent Valley route is impressive.

Instead of occasional expresses calling at Tamworth, Nuneaton and Lichfield at unfathomable times, the most recent timetable has an hourly intercity express to Nuneaton taking about one hour to get all the way from Euston. Superwhizzo.

Every hour a semi fast£ train, calling at Milton Keynes and Rugby, still manages Nuneaton in 70 minutes. fbb has ridden this so-called "local" and it is equally impressive. And the units have lots of big windows so you avoid the claustrophobia of a Pendolino.

It is a MUCH nicer ride.

These trains then call at all stops to Stafford before running non stop to Crewe. At stafford there is a connection with a stopper for all stations to Crewe.

Generally, all stations now have a better service.

Except Polesworth. Here is the train advertised at Rugby (0659), as revealed in a past blog.
Currently it is even earlier and even less attractive!

So why not drop in a footbridge? Here the circular argument rears its ugly head. Under the new rules a new footbridge would have to have lifts and would be ludicrously expensive for just 136 passengers a year.

Of course, if the footbridge had NOT been removed there would be more passengers!

Could folk cross the line via the Station Road road bridge?
The bridge is narrow and controlled by lights.

That footway would need turning into a proper path, moving it to the opposite side of the road and ...
... step-free access would be needed to the southbound platform. But there is plenty of room; room for a car park as well with a chunk of agricultural land purchased for the purpose.

Then footfall could grow and, after a period of the hourly service, there would be enough pennies to do the job properly and provide (heaven forfend!) some station facilities.

There is nothing at the moment ...
... where once stood that attractive station house.
In the meantime, genuine passengers who might want to travel from (and even to!) Polesworth can only gaze, with desire in their eyes, at the London North Western map ...
... and, as they zoom past, at the "car card" in their non-stopping train.
But them's the raw facts. Now enjoy a video. It is, at 12 minutes, a bit longer than fbb would ordinarily post, but for many readers we are still in a holiday schedule, so worth a look at the lunacy and/or enthusiasm of a typical railway keenite!
So Geoff (I am freezing cold) Marshall's passenger figures are way out of date, if they were ever correct. .

Polesworth is now the ninth least used station in the UK but might be better used if it had a train service!

One small point for Geoff. Assuming his ridiculed return ticket is valid for at least a month, then it can, of course be used for a return journey from the north by changing at Atherstone and "coming back" on yourself.  The chances are that you would have to stay overnight in Atherstone, this adding to the expense.

As far as Geoff's quoted usage figures are concerned, they should be treated with one of these - FULL!
Tomorrow, we deal with the end (hopefully?) of a long-running dispute between a Blackpool bus operator and a Traffic Commissioner.

Or perhaps not?

 Next Looney Legislative blog : Friday 30th December 


  1. But we still don't know where that picture was taken ... Malasia perhaps? And the "Liverpool Echo" used it for a completely different article!

    BTW you ought to look at the amazing service provided by GWR from Pilning ... again on only one direction.

  2. I would the bridge removal had more to do with it being too low for the wires (as at Pilning), rather than making space for a gantry. I suspect increasing the height of the bridge was either deemed too complex or would make it liable to accessibility regulations