One of the curious legacies of the post-Beeching railway era is the concept of the Parliamentary Train. Essentially, due to the mandatory consultation process that must now take place before a section of line is closed to scheduled passenger service, it is often easier (and cheaper) to run one train a week over sections of line that are no longer used rather than go through the lengthy process necessary to officially close them.
One such Parliamentary Train currently runs between Kensington and Olympia (IanVisits has an excellent account of a trip on the service last year). This is a legacy of the redesign of the Cross Country franchise in 2007.
When the franchise was drawn up, direct services between Brighton and Manchester were removed (largely to allow rolling stock to be redeployed for capacity improvements in the Midlands during the peak). Unfortunately, it was not realised until the franchise process was well underway that this would technically leave three small sections of line in West London without any passenger services. This would have constituted a line closure – even though there was no intention to actually do so (both freight and relatively regular charter services would still use the line).
The sections of line in question were:
- Factory Junction – Latchmere Junction no.1 (a short chord between Wandsworth Road and Imperial Wharf stations)
- Willesden West London Junction – Acton Wells Junction (between Shepherd’s Bush and Acton Main Line stations)
- Acton Wells Junction – Acton East Junction (between Shepherd’s Bush and Acton Main Line stations)
After discussions with Southern, the only operator who still had Factory Junction – Latchmere Junction no.1 in their Track Access Agreement, a weekly service was established over this stretch of track. For the Willesden and Acton sections, however, a bus (and later taxi) rail-replacement service was instituted – keeping the sections of line technically in passenger service.
Since then, these services have all operated, albeit with very little traffic as all of these areas are arguably better served by other services. It seems, however, that the DfT is now ready to officially take the step of closing these sections of track to regular passenger traffic, as the notice below appeared in the Evening Standard on Friday marking the start of closure consultations:
Those interested in reading (or taking part) in the consultation can find the full DfT Consultation document here.
Ultimately, it’s a move that will have little effect on passengers. It will however, mark the removal of one of London’s minor transport quirks – and one that has fascinated both train aficionados and Sunday Supplement writers for some time.
For those looking for an alternative “Ghost Train,” LR believes that Paddington – Gerrards Cross is still running…
Thanks to PM for the spot