Why the UK Runs Trains to Nowhere


This video was made possible by Squarespace. Build your website for 10% off at
squarespace.com/HAI. This train should not exist, and, if were
up to the train company, it wouldn’t, but it’s not. You see, in the UK, trains work off a franchising
system where the UK government awards contracts to different private companies to
operate rail services. For example Virgin Trains East
Coast operate the east coast route, ScotRail operates most trains in Scotland, TransPennine
express operates many trains to and from Manchester, and there are about two dozen other
operators, but this particular train that shouldn’t exist is operated by Chiltern
Railways. They
mostly operate trains to smaller towns between London and Birmingham and all of their trains
to London terminate at Marylebone station…
except for one—this one. This particular train
operates from the nearby London Paddington station—the terminus for Great Western and
Heathrow Express services. But Chiltern railways has to operate services
to London Paddington because this document says so—their franchise
agreement. This document is basically the
contract between the railway company and the UK government so to modify this document they
have to ask the government and, as we all know, sometimes governments aren’t very
efficient. So here’s your super simple guide to closing
a railway route in Britain. Step one: perform
a “transport appraisal.” This is basically an analysis of the effects
that the line closure will have on passengers, the environment, and the economy. The strait-forward three stage fourteen step
process of creating a transport appraisal is explained in this handy 35 page document
featuring this super user-friendly flowchart. Once you’ve completed that, just give it
to the UK Department of Transport who will analyze your
analysis. Step two: publish your proposal of
closure including the findings of your transport appraisal six months before the proposed closure
in one local newspaper circulating near the proposed closure and in two national newspapers
for two weeks continuously. Step three: open a twelve-week consultation
period including public hearings where anyone who disagrees with the
closure can protest. Once you’ve completed those
three easy steps, then you’ll hand everything over to the Office of Rail and Road who will
decide whether or not you can close the line. As you might have been able to tell from my
not-at-all-sarcastic explanation, it’s not easy
to close a franchised rail route, but nowhere in the agreement does it say how often Chiltern
Railways has to operate their route to Paddington—it just says they need to. So they operate it…
once per day. Now compared to the US where cities as big
as Houston, Texas only see three trains a week and have stations that look
like this, a daily service from Paddington probably
seems normal, but the station this service goes to, High Wycombe, sees 95 trains a day
from the normal London station—Marylebone. One train per day is nothing for a UK train
route, especially from London. Chiltern Railways, like many other train companies,
have decided it’s just easier and cheaper to operate an infrequent
service to fulfill their franchise agreement instead
of going through the rather expensive formal closure process. But some rail companies have pushed the boundaries
of what is considered “service” to an extreme. Northern’s franchise agreement requires
them to operate a train between Stockport and Stalybridge which they fulfill by running
one train, one-way, once per week. Between
Stockport and Stalybridge there are two stations which are therefore serviced by one train
per week. Closing stations is just as difficult as closing
lines so they won’t do it. Denton station
therefore recorded only 144 passengers in the past year while Reddish South saw just
94. Thirty
miles to the north, London Midland is required to operate services to Barlaston Railway Station,
but companies are allowed to temporarily operate rail replacement buses during maintenance. This company, however, has interpreted “temporary”
as 13 years as they’ve operated rail replacement busses to this station since 2004
to fulfill their obligation. The Chiltern Railways service from London
Paddington to High Wycombe is definitively unprofitable. On many days there are zero passengers. On the day this footage was filmed, there
was only one. This bureaucratic closure process is meant
to protect the public by preventing companies from closing unprofitable smaller
stations, but in reality most of what is does is make
these ghost trains. If you’ve just realized “ghost train”
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Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. Maybe the UK should have never privatised its railways. Privatisation is only really beneficial under sufficient competitive forces, but the franchise system precludes this. Investments in British trains, stations and networks are far behind SNCF, DB, SBB and ÖBB. The overall quality of service in Britain is worse (personal experience) and ticket prices are higher.

  2. I used the Stockport to Stalybridge line a lot in the '80s when travelling between home (Stockport) and university (York) – the service ran once an hour in both directions then. And it's pronounced "STAY-lee-bridge".

  3. 3:52 I was about to ask who was the one person who rode the ghost train, but then I realized it was the cameraman themselves.

  4. More self-serving libertarian garbage coming from a America commenting on something they likely spent a handful of minutes researching, at best. To make matters worse, the subject of UK rail was compared to the completely failed non-freight rail services in the USA. No self awareness.

  5. Paddington is a good alternative terminus to Marylebone, with many connections, and Wycombe is a big commuter town. This is potentially a successful commuter route. I'm puzzled that Chiltern don't promote it. The Manchester route makes much less sense.

  6. It's pronounced "Stay-Lee-Bridge" not "Stali-Bridge" and just like Stockport, and everything in between, it's a shit hole.

  7. So I live in Denton and I never knew this, the train station is so useless no one uses it and I’ve never seen a train go through it

  8. HOW can you mentrion ghost-trains without talking about the possibility for the gym rat twin brother of a desert king to suplex it…. HOW

  9. The agreement doesn't make ghost trains you have named 3 in the country, it protects smaller stations from large rail companies cutting them off. They charge obscene volumes of money for tickets so I hope they do have to run services that can be a pain

  10. "Inefficiency and bureaucracy" as the video suggests, or actually a process to ensure public services are protected for the benefit of citizens and democratic oversight of the public transport system?

  11. Good, public money bought and built this infrastructure so it should prevent private companies taking the piss, that’s why 3rd world countries like the USA have fallen into disrepair.

  12. I did work experience on Chiltern Railways back in 2003 as my Dad used to work for them. I did the ticket checking with the guard (for the 4 passengers on the train) and got to go in the cab with the driver which was awesome as I've always loved trains. Then we got to Paddington, grabbed a quick coffee and then back off the Wycombe. That was a great week, I got to do a bit of everything, train dispatching, announcements at Marylebone, working the ticket office, handing out fines at the barriers. Great week that.

  13. It is supposed to be expensive and difficult to close a station in the UK. The "Beeching Axe" closed huge pieces of the railway on a study done over just a few months! So lines that looked unprofitable for six months were hugely popular for the other six. Many lines have reopened or in the process of being reopend or campaigned to be reopened.

    The short sighted way that many lines were closed and land sold off has caused so many problems today with traffic on roads and congestion and over-crowding on the railways.

  14. I got so far and gave up with the annoying American voice over and mispronunciation, America has terrible train services for passengers.

  15. Ghost train – Great band name! Already exist. Am listening to their music – actually quite good 😀

  16. Different ghost trains have different reasons why they run.
    It might be legislation requires that a train be run, and that legislation is written into the franchise agreement, while others require a service to be run otherwise the line will be closed automatically due to lack of use.

    Its not just about the train, it goes all the way back to the legislation that created the lines and services that use them

  17. In Japan there was a ghost train line on Hokkaido that ran to a certain station that only had one patron, a highschool student. The station was closed when that student graduated albeit the train itself was a near ghost train to begin with.

  18. These trans are also called Parliamentary Trains because they are not profitable, parliament requires them to be operated.

  19. Ha 2 of the franchises you mentioned don’t exist anymore and you know a lot about Britain for an American plus I travel on that train once a week

  20. The conclusion is a bit simple.
    I grew up in a village that kept its station and train service just because of this bureaucracy.
    A line not being profitable does not mean its a "ghost line". A lot of people from my village used the train to commute. So it wasn't earning money most of the day which made it unprofitable. Not a ghost line by far.

  21. "they meant to prevent closing unprofitable routes, but only thing they do is creating these ghost trains" – that's just a survivor bias.

  22. I didn't understand who owns the UK rail network. In Italy there has been privatization, but it only concerns the trains while the tracks are always state owned. The private individual can decide to circulate his trains wherever he wants by paying a price per kilometer. Is this also the case in the UK?

  23. So the main station of Houston, Texas only has around 3 trains per week meanwhile a lonely, irrelevant station in the UK called Redcar British Steel still has around 4 trains in one day.

  24. I used to work right next to Reddish South and I travelled by train. Had to go to Reddish North and walk 20 mins, very annoying!

  25. Thousands of people a year move to London, so 😜 there have to be empty trains going out of London.

  26. So because of two examples of wasteful trains the process is bad? This channel is the most obviously American channel ever, and that's coming from an American. But I guess having a tiny amount of too much public transportation is worse than having none.

  27. Considering Network SouthEast also operated that one service from Paddington in peak hours suggest this video is non factual.

  28. I get to work in 30 minutes. Not to mention groceries, kids, leisure, on and on… all to within a city with peace and quite that isn't designed with people living ontop of each other with outrageous rent/mortgage. Cars are awesome. And soon they'll be electric and they'll drive you. Keep your ghost trains.

  29. im a english person and to today all these rare things you mentioned have changed:Northern and London Midland have changed Franchises,LNWR no longer run buses to Barlaston(and the other stop nearby) from stafford to stoke,but from stone to stoke,so norton bridge gets no replacement buses(You have to get the 13 bus from stafford station) The Paddington to High Wycombe train goes to west ealing instead now,not paddington.Northern is also run by Arriva and they run a hourly train from stockport to stalybridge now.

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