Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

“Sad, balding little prols…”

Posted in Customer service, Great Britain by Chairman Pip on 21 September 2010

Friends, I am returned. You may have noticed increased Twitter traffic from me, combined with lack of blog posting, which usually means I’m away. This was one of my regular long weekends in Nottingham, which is combined with an away game in the Midlands, in this case to Stoke City. Now, there are no direct trains from Nottingham to Stoke-on-Trent, so the only relatively direct way is a train to Derby and change onto a train along the North Staffordshire line, one of those quaint rural routes with one train per hour, the services provided using single car Class 153 units, where there are two people waiting to get on at each of the intermediate stations, all of which are unstaffed. The epitome of the kind of route that was targeted under The Reshaping of British Railways, except that the route has existed in its current form only in the last five years. Still, there you go. Travelling through the rolling fields of Staffordshire showed one thing – the countryside doesn’t half pen & ink!! Also, you had the somewhat incongruous sight of my train back from Stoke-on-Trent (again, a Class 153) pulling in to the platform just as a Class 390 Pendolino was pulling out on the opposite platform. Seeing Virgin’s flagship high speed thoroughbred alongside what is to all intents and purposes a box on rails was amusing to say the least. One last thing about my Stoke journey – the conductor on the train back to Derby, a lady by the name (according to her name badge) of Michelle South, had possibly the finest pair of legs it’s ever been my pleasure to observe on an employee of the railways. So, if by whatever small chance the conductor of the 15.33 ex Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday 18th September 2010 does read this, my compliments to you on your stunning pair of pins.

Something that I thought of on Saturday was the idea of planning stadia around rail links. Stoke City have played at their current home, the Britannia Stadium, since 1997. The stadium is located away from the centre of Stoke-upon-Trent at a junction of the A50 and A500. There is a railway line that passes (according to the map) not very far from the stadium, which is used by London Midland for its stopping services between London and Crewe, as well being used as a diversion for Virgin’s services to Manchester. Again, looking at the map, there seems to be scope for the building of a station not very far from the stadium, which would be easier to use than having to come all the way from Stoke-on-Trent, which generally requires the use of specially put on bus services from the centre of town. Such seems to be the case with many football clubs when building new stadia – Coventry, Doncaster, Reading, Swansea, Milton Keynes and Wigan have all built new stadia that are significant distances from the nearest railway station. Now of course the club is under an obligation to get the best deal it possibly can for the land, because it doesn’t want to have a huge cost of buying the land in addition to the huge cost of building the stadium. But surely good public transport links should be a vital consideration when the proposal comes up, which should include, if possible, cooperation with Network Rail and the local train operator over the installation of a railway station close to the stadium. Indeed, the situation in Reading may well improve once Reading Green Park station is completed and opened, as this will serve the Madejski Stadium and GreenPark Business Park, reducing at a stroke the need for the special bus service from the bus station at Reading. Football clubs (and cricket clubs, if the Rose Bowl is anything to go by) should not look at their stadium as an isolated development, but the centre of a community that needs to be served properly by public transport.

The Britannia Stadium is one of a number of new stadia around the country with poor rail links

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