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IBM Station in Scotland is closing

How it and 8 other unusual stations performed

Posted 19th November 2018

In 1978, International Business Machines' factory site in Greenock, Scotland, had a station opened by British Rail to serve the site. Located in the middle of private land owned by IBM on the Glasgow to Wemyss Bay railway line, the station allowed factory workers direct access to and from their place of employment. Initially, use was restricted to IBM employers and contractors only, the stop was not advertised in public timetables, and trains only stopped at peak time.

IBM Station is Closing

As the factory was gradually sold off and other businesses moved in, the station was opened to the general public and all trains started calling at the station. However, the new businesses also gradually closed, leaving a big industrial site essentially derelict. Buildings were demolished and those that weren't became unsafe. On the advice of the Police, fences were erected which meant that while the station was accessible by train, travellers couldn't really go anywhere once they alighted. It became an anachronism on the railway network: a station served by every single train passing through, in the middle of private land on which nothing stood and was closed off anyway.

ScotRail, the operator of the trains running through the station, announced that as of the December 2018 timetable change trains would no longer call at the station.

So how has it performed?

Remarkably well.

Between Monday 23rd July and Sunday 18th November 2018, IBM station hosted 4,019 trains stopping there, either on the way to Glasgow or back the other way to Wemyss Bay. The line itself is a medium-sized commuter line from the west into Scotland's biggest city, with stops at places like Inverkip, Bishopton, and Paisley.

Of those 4,019 trains just a single one - the 11:37 departure to Wemyss Bay on Tuesday 9th October - was more than 30 minutes late (the minimum threshold for delay repay on ScotRail).

As for cancellations, there were a total of 43, most of which were on a single day - Wednesday 19th September, due to extreme weather affecting the whole line. Throughout the period, a handful of trains departed 2 minutes early, leaving 63.7% of trains departing on time; and 34.9% delayed by up to 29 minutes.

Of those delays outside of the Delay Repay threshold, the longest was 27 minutes on Thursday 20th September.

Other similar stations

IBM is relatively uncommon, but not unique, in being a private station on the National Rail network. Below are some other unusual stations and how they performed in the same period.

1. Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin Castle station

Like IBM, Dunrobin is a private station located on private land and again served by Scotrail. Its primary purpose it to serve the tourist attraction of Dunrobin Castle on whose land it is located. The station is seasonal to match the castle's summer-only opening hours and this year closed for the year on Sunday 28th October.

From 23rd July until its closure for the winter, it received 517 trains heading either north to Wick or south to Inverness. 18 of those trains - 3.5% - were cancelled for various reasons including points failures, poor adhesion and signal failures. Not a single train departed early, but shockingly only 2 trains departed on time! The rest - 492 trains, or 96.2% - were at least one minute late, with five being eligible for compensation by being more than 30 minutes late. The longest non-eligible delay was 28 minutes on the 2nd October.

2. Lympstone Commando

Another example of a station built for the exclusive use of a private organisation - in this case, the Ministry of Defence whose Royal Marine Commando Training Centre is the only thing around. Previously the only way in and out of the Lympstone Commando station was via a secure gate with access controlled by the MoD. Now there is a small footpath leading out of the station, opening up access to the general public - although a sign remains on the platform stating "persons alighting here must have business with the camp".

Operated exclusively by GWR, there were 5,393 trains scheduled to call on their way to Exeter, Exmouth, Paignton or Barnstaple. Of those, 85 trains (or 1.6%) were cancelled; but only 8.8% (472 trains) were on time - leaving a whopping 89.6% of trains late by at least a minute - but only one (with a 37 minute delay, on 1st November) being late enough for Delay Repay.

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3. Teesside Airport

The second-quietest station in the UK, with just 30 recorded passengers in 2016/17, Teesside Airport station is situated over a mile away from the airport it serves, and there is no public transport link between the station and the airport. That might explain why there is literally one train a week calling there... on a Sunday. The 14:55 departure towards Darlington, operated by Northern, forms a so-called Parliamentary train - one which runs only so that the station cannot be officially said to have closed, but which is at inconvenient times and, in this case, does not provide a return journey of any kind.

So, with just 17 trains to look at in our sample period (23rd July - 18th November 2018) the stats aren't exactly great. Just ten trains (58.8%) ran on time, with seven trains late by between one and 23 minutes. None were late enough to trigger compensation in the form of Delay Repay.

4. Berney Arms

Berney Arms station

Not, as you might assume, a station in the back garden of a pub - but one of the remotest stations in England with no road or path access to it. The only way to reach Berney Arms station in Norfolk is by walking two miles from the nearest road - to the pub bearing the same name! Upon arrival in the middle of the marshes, you'll find a single lump of concrete masquerading as a station platform on the line between Great Yarmouth and Norwich, with a creaky wooden shed serving as a waiting room.

As for the stats, they look like this between 23rd July and 18th November 2018:

Out of a total 367 stops, 10 trains (2.7%) were cancelled, but not a single one was delayed enough to claim Delay Repay. Of the remaining trains, 70.6% were on time and 26.7% were delayed by at least a minute - with the longest delay being 13 minutes on Saturday 13th October.

5. British Steel Redcar

Our last example of a station built exclusively to serve an industrial site, British Steel Redcar station was opened in 1978, located on private land owned by the huge steelworks. There is officially no public access - if you alight a train at the station, you are prevented from leaving the platforms and have to wait for another train - with a choice of just one or three others.

With only four services on weekdays (all at peak times, to and from Bishop Auckland or Saltburn), two on Saturdays and nothing on Sundays, there are only 381 trains in our survey period of 23rd July to 18th November 2018.

Seventeen trains (4.5%) were cancelled at British Steel Redcar and only 45.5% ran on time - leaving exactly 50% of trains running late, with the longest delay 27 minutes on 5th October.

6. Reddish South

Another one of the quietest stations in the UK with just 94 entries and exits in 2016/17, Reddish South is also served by only one "Parliamentary train" service - this time a return service is provided though. Trains stop only on Saturdays, but haven't run at all recently due to weekend strike action by Northern Rail staff - leaving us with just 8 trains in our data, between 23rd July and 18th August.

Shockingly, only three of those trains ran on time - but the delays weren't very bad either, with the longest being 8 minutes on 4th August.

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7. Kempston Hardwick

Located in rural Bedfordshire, and previously one of the least-used stations in the UK, Kempston Hardwick in theory serves the village of the same name, but the village consists of only 14 houses. Its main purpose for being built was to serve the sprawling brickworks at Stewartby, which has now been largely demolished.

While passenger numbers are up thanks to promotion from the community rail partnership who run the line (although trains are operated by London North Western Railway), the station is relatively unusual because of the small settlement it now serves.

But how about the performance of trains stopping there? The service is fairly regular on the Bedford to Bletchley line, with a total of 3,221 trains in our data from 23rd July to 18th November 2018. Of those, an impressive 2,323 (72.1%) ran on time, with 61 trains (1.9%) being cancelled, and - strangely - 37 trains (1.1%) departing early.

Of the remaining trains, 13 were late enough for Delay Repay (using LNWR's threshold of 15 minutes) and the rest (24.4%) less than 15 minutes late. The longest delay was 35 minutes on a Bedford-bound train on 20th September.

8. Fishguard Harbour

Owned not by Network Rail nor a train operating company but by StenaLine, Fishguard Harbour station in Wales is unusual in that the vast majority of tickets purchased to the station are actually bought from Ireland, and used on a ferry from Rosslare port. It is also the only station in the UK where it is legal to smoke on the platform.

Fishguard's fortunes have changed over the years and there are now only a handful of services from the station, going to Manchester, Camarthen, Cardiff and Swansea.

Between 23rd July and 18th November 2018, there were a total of 689 trains - 26 of which (3.8%) were cancelled, but an impressive 85.2% ran on time.

Of the 76 late services, only one attracted a compensation payment - the train to Camarthen scheduled to depart Fishguard at 19:08 on 12th October, but not actually departing for nearly two hours at 21:05, eventually arriving at its destination just before 10pm instead of just after 8pm.

Fishguard Harbour station

A) IBM Halt station by ketmonkey on Flickr
B) Dunrobin Castle station by Steve Brown on Flickr
C) Berney Arms station by matthewblack on Flickr
D) Fishguard Harbour station by camperdown on Flickr