Britain's ghost trains: 5 secret railways in the UK

There’s a whole network of railway lines used by ‘ghost’ trains in Britain, here are a few to look out for.

Have you ever found yourself in a train carriage alone? It can be quite eerie, but did you know there are limited train services running around the country, ones that are so remote, that are run at awkward times and underused, that you’re almost guaranteed not just a carriage, but the whole train to yourself.

They’re called ‘parliamentary ghost stations’ and ‘ghost trains’ amongst those in the know, and are so rare and obscure, that even British Transport workers aren’t always aware they exist.

Why do they exist?

Closing train stations is a long, costly and difficult process, which the rail network would generally rather avoid. So, instead of shutting a station, it’s often easier and cheaper to just do the bare legal requirement to keep it open – and it turns out, sometimes all that takes is just one train using the line once a week at 3am. Often there’s no return journey and not even a ticket office to arrive at.

Can you buy a ticket?

For some ghost trains you can buy tickets (although you may come across some bemused ticket officers who will question how you’re going to get home, seeing as there’s no return journey until next Tuesday, and no taxi rank at the station). However, others run during the night, or shoot past stations without stopping, so don’t take passengers at all.

Who uses the railways?

Mainly it’s just the train drivers allocated to the lines, however, there are also quite a few train enthusiasts and ‘ghost train hunters’ who make it their mission to find these almost-abandoned lines (which are rarely advertised at stations) and make use of them.

Here are five ghost trains worth the effort of tracking down:

1. London Paddington to West Ruislip – runs weekdays only at 11.36am, which uses the old Great Western line direct to Birmingham – with old tracks intact.

2. Stalybridge Flyer travels from Stockport around south Manchester, but only once a week, at 9.22am on Fridays – it’s one of the rarest timetable trains in the country.

3. Leeds to Snaith – this train does run daily, Monday to Saturday, but the station is unmanned and empty, the trains generally vacant, and there are zero parking spaces or taxis at the other end.

4. Berney Arms Station, Norfolk – this station is closed, but on an active line. To stop there, you have to locate the train driver and ask them to let you off, and if you want to get back on the train, you have to flag it down like a bus!

5. Teesside Airport railway station is a mile from Durham Tees Valley Airport, and only two trains stop there each week, both on Sundays, headed toward Hartlepool and Dinsdale and Darlington – other trains sail right past.

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