103/270: #Euston – The Controversial

I’m going to come out and say something unpopular: I like Euston mainline station. This opinion doesn’t necessarily align itself with popular discourse however and railway and architecture enthusiasts up and down the land will constantly lament the argued ruthless demolition of the Phillip Charles Hardwick original. Amongst many of the grand classical features lost to the 1960’s rebuild was the famed Euston Arch, a commanding portico fronting Drummond Street that properly announced the arrival of the London & Birmingham railway in a typically ostentatious Victorian style. It is often credited with being the greatest architectural loss to the railways, if not London, when the brutalist designers of the 60’s swept through town after the war pulling down these important bits of heritage.

Important they were, yes, but here’s why I like modern Euston and more to the point, here’s why I think it’s better than the original. Come the 50’s, Hardwick’s Euston had become grotty and worn out and was not fit for the demands placed upon it. This was after all the gateway to the West Coast Mainline and ergo the Midlands, the North and beyond. The replacement, designed by BR architects William Headley and MR Moorcroft, dragged Euston in the 20th century. A vast, bright concourse was constructed to welcome travellers in and out of the station, aided by the use of large windows and open spaces, this new facility improved passenger flow and was easier to use and navigate. Instead of dumping you on a side street, the new entrance was moved closer to Euston Road, with an open square, shopping precinct and bus terminal incorporated into the design. The tube station was rationalised as well with a new entrance bringing you right up into the middle of the concourse, further removing the need for passengers to get in the way of road traffic. (Check out my video on Euston’s abandoned passageways). Even the taxi rank is hidden away underneath the station. All of this is incredibly clever, and I’m a big fan of joined up public transport integration with thought given to the user experience as a whole. It’s something the brutalist planners and architects of the 60’s were surprisingly good at, and we would do well in the modern era to celebrate and take guidance from their ideas.

The trouble with Euston is that if you’re going to bulldoze amazing architecture (and actually it’s perhaps important to note that in the 60’s nobody liked Victorian buildings) you better damn well make sure the replacement is something superior. And that’s where our 21st century opinions start to take over. Throughout the years Euston has been adapted and bastardised to such an extent that those clever design features have been detrimentally lost. We’ve built extra kiosks and advertising hoardings in the concourse, reducing the spread of natural light and making the station feel dull. The space outside has been built over with fences and railings making it harder to navigate and ugly to look at. The platforms too are chronically unloved and unwelcoming and on the face of it I start to understand why people think Euston is the worst of the termini.

With the advent of HS2 and the pending redevelopment of the station, I can however see us in 50 years time looking back at 1960’s Euston, just like we did with the Arch and Hardwick and think – actually, that wasn’t half bad, maybe we shouldn’t have pulled it down after all, maybe should have looked after it instead.

But then that would make me a hypocrite. Mourning the loss of what I feel is a 1960’s icon, would be no better than getting teary eyed about a grotty arch I never got to see. Maybe Euston is destined to be rebuilt over and over again, with nobody truly appreciating its merits and gems until it’s too late. And maybe that’s okay.

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

Station Index

Clapham South Shelter: A Collaboration

And now for something a bit different…

Last year I went on a tour of the abandoned parts of Euston station. You might have seen the video. These are naturally excellent content producing opportunities as the subject matter is always bound to draw viewers and readers into Calling All Stations. Sure, visiting these abandoned spaces is nothing that hasn’t already been done on blogs and YouTube, but I always feel duty bound to provide my subscribers with my accounts and experiences of the visits. Abandoned stations tend to be very photogenic so there’s also plenty to snap.

Except this isn’t always easy. The juggling act of getting great shots that I can work with afterwards whilst still listening and paying attention to the LTM guides (of whom you’ve paid good money to follow round) is somewhat of a challenge. This is made even harder if you’re trying to shoot video, especially if you’re trying to frame out the rest of the tour group – who are also trying to get that perfect abandoned-look shot! There’s certainly a sense that the tour guides want to move at a fairly swift pace as well, and I’m reluctant to hold up the group or miss out on any juicy facts just because I’m at the back taking a picture of that empty tunnel behind us. I’m not sure if this was always the case, I remember a tour of Aldwych around 4 years ago where the guides allowed more time for people to get ‘that shot’ of the empty platforms that they so craved. Perhaps LTM are trying to pack more tours into a day, or maybe the Aldwych tour is at a more relaxed pace, but I’ve come to realise it is what it is and I’ve got to work with the time I’m given.

With all this in mind I figured that perhaps a different stance was needed on the visit to the deep level shelters at Clapham South. Instead of producing a narrated video like the one at Euston, I decided to make a return to shooting higher-quality stills and using these to develop a more artistic approach. Whilst I realise applying Instagram filters to plates of chips is somewhat of a cliché, I am however all in favour of doctoring images in post to enhance the viewing experience in a more creative setting. What I mean by this is in reality the shelter was well-lit and full of the people on the tour group, whilst what I wanted to create was the sense of a gloomy, decaying, empty and desolate place. This is naturally not something I normally get to do for my documentary videos.

Now creating spooky images is simple enough, but a silent slide show of the collection would be… well a bit boring really. What they really need is some suitable music to go with them. So it is with great pleasure that I get to collaborate with friend and colleague Robin The Fog, a leading Musique Concréte artist, in creating a the full audio-visual experience that a space like Clapham deserves.

Robin creates his music, not by fancy digital means, but by using tape loops. Taking any old sound as mundane as a squeaking gate or slamming door, Robin loops these sounds through tape recorders and varies the speed in which they play back. The process is then repeated and layered with delayed loops running at different speeds until the sound is unrecognisable from the original recording. The effect is a rich and colourful yet slightly chaotic sonic masterpiece that will likely amaze and terrify you at the same time. Think 1970’s sci-fi film score meets Radiophonic Workshop.

Writer Leila Peacock explains a little more about how the sounds you’re about to hear were created,

The ruins of the Spanish House stand on the banks of the river Sava at the heart of the Savamala district of Belgrade. Originally a decadent customs house in the heart of a bustling port, this decaying structure bears the imprint of many generations. Now an empty echo chamber, its walls reverberate with the rumble of the passing freight trains like the sea inside a shell; songs and shouts return distorted from a trip around the flooded basement and exposed structural supports become an unholy set of chimes. All the sounds you hear on this track were recorded on site and nothing has been added that is not of the building itself. This echoic palimpsest is architectural portraiture in sound.

The track used in the video is called ‘Savamalan Rust, Parts 2 & 3,‘ and is a previously unheard outtake from Secret Songs Of Savamalathe 2nd album roduced and released by Robin’s band, Howlround. The sounds you hear are exposed metal structural supports recorded in the flooded basement of an abandoned customs from that Serbian subterranean world. A very fitting marriage, I hope you’ll agree, to the imagery of Clapham South shelter.

To hear more of Robin and Howlround’s work head over to their website.

Clapham South Shelter was opened to the public in 1944 and offered shelter to some 8000 people during wartime London. After the war the shelter was repurposed and has seen action as a temporary hostel, a hotel and a government archive store. London Transport Museum now offer annual tours of the mile long complex of subterranean passageways and bunkers.

2015 ORR Station Data: Movers & Shakers

The Office of Rail & Road Station Usage Report has been released which of course makes me unreasonably excited. The report details the estimated* usage of every station on the UK rail network.

*Estimated because not all stations on the UK network are gated and therefore do not provide a 100% accurate reading of passenger usage. Usage is also estimated where stations are grouped together as a single destination (e.g Manchester All, Liverpool All, London Zone 2). For more information on this click here.

So let’s start by looking at the UK’s most and least used stations. For all the stats I’m using in this review I’m going to be focusing on Combined Entry & Exit data. ‘1 Passenger’ is defined as a journey starting or ending at any given station.

Most Used

Station Region Passengers
 1 (=0) London Waterloo London 99,201,604
 2 (=0) London Victoria London 85,337,996
 3 (=0) London Liverpool Street London 63,631,246
 4 (=0) London Bridge London 49,517,854
 5 (+1) London Charing Cross London 42,978,890
 6 (-1) London Euston London 42,952,298
 7 (=0) London Paddington London 35,724,648
 8 (=0) Birmingham New Street West Midlands 35,312,788
 9 (=0) London King’s Cross London 31,346,862
 10 (+2) Stratford London 30,974,204

No surprises really that 9 out of the 10 busiest stations in the UK are in London.

Image By Diliff

London Waterloo – Photo by Diliff; CC-BY-SA-3.0

No significant changes in the ranking with Charing Cross and Euston separated by the odd 10,000 people here and there. As the local area undergoes further re-development, Stratford knocks Leeds out of the top 10 by jumping up 2 places. (We’ll talk a bit more about that later).

Least Used

Station Region Passengers
1 (+1) Shippea Hill East 22
2 (+3) Coombe South West 26
3 (-3) Tees-Side Airport North East 32
4 (-1) Reddish South North West 54
5 (-1) Barry Links Scotland 60
6 (+2) Pilning South West 68
7  (+2) Golf Street Scotland 86
8 (+7) Elton & Orston East Midlands 88
8 (-1) Buckenham East 88
10 (-4) Breich Scotland 92

If 9/10 of the busiest stations in the UK are in London it seems logical that 10 of the least used stations aren’t**. Spread out across the country (although interestingly none in Wales) the top 10 quietest stations range from Coombe in rural Cornwall to Breich in Scotland. There’s a bit more movement in the Least Used top 10 as the margins that separate total passenger numbers are obviously much smaller. Nonetheless the stations in this list tend to interchange ranks with each other every year. The only station that didn’t appear last year is Elton & Orston, which rose 7 places in the rankings. The Nottinghamshire entry, which replaces Denton – Manchester, has seen steady decline in usage over the last 10 years. In 2014 there was a peak in usage which saw the station drop out of the top 10. The explanation for this is unclear.

**London doesn’t make the list until Rank No. 333 where the capital’s least used station, Sudbury & Harrow Road, has a comparatively massive 19,124 yearly journeys.

Image By Mark Hurn

Shippea Hill – Photo by Mark Hurn; CC-BY-SA-2.0

The reasons for such poor passenger footfall vary. The remote locations of some of the Scottish entries naturally produce a low yield in usage despite some of these stations having a reasonable level of service. Others in more densely populated areas such as Reddish South deliberately have such poor levels of service that passengers are actively discouraged to use them. Infrequent and inconvenient services are ran – often only once a week, in one direction and very early in the morning. These bare minimum ‘Parliamentary Services’ allow Train Operating Companies to wilfully neglect stations on non-main line routes without legally having to close the station – an expensive and lengthy procedure.

This creates a rather sadly self fulfilling prophecy. Poor passenger numbers don’t attract investment and services. Poor services don’t attract passengers… and so on… In the instance of Reddish South the figures of usage are somewhat false as these erratic services attract rail enthusiasts that wouldn’t otherwise frequent the station in normal circumstances. It’s quite possible that without this unusual form of tourism most of the stations on the above list would have no yearly passengers at all.

Biggest Increase (Raw)

Image By Ewan Munro

Stratford – Photo by Ewan Munro; CC-BY-SA-2.0

There are two methods of viewing changing passenger levels: Actual raw number of extra/fewer passengers, or, a percentage change with reference to the previous yaer. Both have merits and pitfuls in terms of data return. Let’s first look at the raw figures.

Station Region Passenger
1 Stratford London 4,596,698
2 Highbury & Islington London 4,135,504
3 Canada Water London 4,116,752
4 London Victoria London 3,981,666
5 London Charing Cross London 2,808,816
6 Whitechapel London 2,764,794
7 London St. Pancras London 2,195,848
8 Glasgow Central Scotland 1,812,066
9 Vauxhall London 1,709,700
10 West Ham London 1,618,730

It’s no surprise that we return to London for large increases in passenger numbers. Some of the above list correspond with the evolution of popular London Overground services in the capital. Whilst Stratford’s astronomic increase in usership does correspond to the re-generation in the area, the original report does come with a caveat that Pay As You Go Oyster figures may have been underestimated in the previous year. This also applies to Highbury, Canada Water, Whitechapel and West Ham.

Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow Queen Street also feature in the top 20 with increases of over 1 million passengers each. It’s hardly shocking that in our ever congested cities rail based commuting is on the rise. The unaffordability of Central London is no doubt a contributing factor to the extra millions of people using suburban routes.

Biggest Decrease (Raw)

Station Region Passenger
1 London Bridge London -6,924,190
2 Southend Victoria East -2,368,108
3 London Fenchurch Street London -646,284
4 Birkenhead Hamilton Square North West -514,726
5 Worcester Shrub Hill West Midlands -373,432
6 Sunderland North East -327,634
7 Southend East East -239,846
8 Reading West South East -225,482
9 Newark North Gate East Midlands -207,795
10 Digby & Sowton South West -201,368

It is perhaps odd that a number of termini, especially ones in London, appear in the top 10 list of decreasing passenger numbers. Often internal factors are responsible for these figures. London Bridge for example is experiencing extensive redevelopment with many services diverted to other London termini (Incidentally this may explain increase statistics for both Charing Cross and Cannon Street). Equally Birkenhead HS was closed for the majority of the year for engineering work.

Image By Sunil060902

London Bridge – Photo by Sunil060902; CC-BY-SA-3.0

Reading West is likely to have seen a reversal in increasing passenger numbers due to the completion of the upgrade scheme at nearby Reading (General).

A number of stations on this list have seen changes in the way passenger figures are calculated and distributed. Southend for example would have once been grouped together under ‘Southend All’ with an estimated percentage distributed amongst Southend Victoria, Central and East. The method of data collection has now been altered to more accurately reflect true footfall from each station. Whilst Southend Victoria shows a loss of over 2 million journeys, Southend Central shows an increase of nearly 1 million. Other nearby commuter stations such as Prittlewell and Westcliffe have also seen strong increases which likely balances out the Southend area discrepancies.

Similarly Newark, Sunderland and Worcester have all seen data distribution alterations that may hamper this year’s statistics compared to last.

Fenchurch Street is a curious addition to this list, considering it is bucking the substantial rise in London termini journey figures. We can possibly attribute this to a number of days of engineering work although not on the same scale as the upgrades at London Bridge.

Overall Changes

It’s important to note that of the 2539 stations only 154 saw a drop in passenger numbers of over 10,000, most of which caused by temporary closures or engineering works.

Percentage Increase

Whilst Raw increases show important information about demand the data returned can sometimes be misleading. The increase of 4 million people at London Victoria could be considered small fry when the station was already servicing 81 million journeys. This only represents an increase of 4.9% on the year before. Under this method a small station which say doubles it’s usage would go unnoticed. It’s therefore prudent to also examine percentage increases by dividing the change in passenger numbers by last years totals.

***This list excludes Pye Corner and James Cook University Hospital as they are brand new stations for 2015 and would have returned an infinite result.

Station Region Percentage
1*** Energlyn & Churchill Park Wales 335.47% 53,452
2 Tees-Side Airport North East 300% 24
3 Pevensey Bay South East 272.39% 18,626
4 Manea East 192.20% 7,100
5 Prittlewell East 159.34% 261,002
6 Blaydon North East 136.94% 6,866
7 Newark Castle East Midlands 123.59% 298,049
8 New Lane North West 119.80% 3,630
9 Melksham South West 116.71% 27,928
10 Dalmarnock Scotland 116.34% 116,760

All the stations in the top 10 have managed to at least double their passenger usage in 2015. (A further 4 stations can also boast this fact). Now we’re sorting by percentage increase the capital no longer dominates the top 10. London just about makes it into the top 30 where Canada Water sits at Rank No. 29 with an increase of 66.25%.

Whilst it may appear encouraging that some stations have managed to quadruple their footfall a relative pinch of salt should be taken when digesting these values.

Image By Jaggery

Energlyn & Churchill Park – Photo by Jaggery; CC-BY-SA-2.0

Energlyn & Churchill Park for example was not opened until part way through the financial year and therefore did not generate a true figure of it’s first years usage.

The stations with exceptionally poor usage that we saw earlier do not have to do much to skew the rankings. In this manner of data collection Tees-Side Airport, Britain’s 3rd least used station, can also boast that it is the 2nd most improved despite only gaining 24 more passengers. It may be asked why a station with only 6 yearly journeys suddenly gains a 300% increase in passengers, but this is likely due to it’s former status as least used station. Ironically this unusual accolade has attracted enthusiast attention which in turn has stripped it of it’s least used title.

It’s not until we get to Pevensey Bay that we see true increase which is accredited to local tourism. Manea, Blaydon and Dalmarnock are enjoying rising demand due to facility renovations and timetable adjustments. As we stated early Prittlewell and Newark appear in this list because of the change in the way data is collected for this study. Only New Lane in Lancashire has an unexplained doubling of journeys.

Percentage Decrease

Station Region Percentage
1 Abererch Wales -76.38% -1,054
2 Islip South East -74.62% -20,160
3 Southend Victoria East -63.54% -2,368,103
4 Bicester Town South East -57.46% -119,460
5 Sugar Loaf Wales -54.17% -130
6 Kinbrace Scotland -51.65% -564
7 Stanlow & Thornton North West -49.68% -156
8 Clifton North West -48.99% -146
9 Eccles Road East -48.35% -1028
10 Nethertown North West -48.28% -560

At the other end of the table we again see a number of low use stations dominate the rankings. Sugar Loaf, a station that from time to time frequents the least used station list, is a good example of how a station can halve it’s footfall without dropping that many passengers in the grand scheme of things.

Image By mattbuck

Abererch – Photo by mattbuck; CC-BY-SA

Abererch, Islip and Bicester were all temporarily closed in 2015 causing their numbers to understandably drop and the data redistribution at Southend Victoria we have already mentioned.

Kinbrace is flagged as having an unusual drop in passenger footfall despite steadily increasing usage for the last 10 years. A similar drop did however occur in 2010 and it recovered the following year.

It’s also worth pointing out that, with the exception of Southend Victoria, all the stations with the largest decrease of actual passengers have now vanished from this list. Despite the upgrade work at London Bridge displacing nearly 7 million passengers, it still only represents a 12.3% drop (Rank No. 110) in usage for the London terminus. This highlights the importance of examining both increases/decreases in terms of raw passenger numbers and as relative percentages.

Other Statistics

Total Passengers Carried In UK 14/15**** 1,392,535,310
Total Extra Passengers Carried
Compared To 13/14****
Total Extra Passengers
As Percentage Increase****
Station With Lowest Raw Change Bearley
(2 extra journeys)
Station With Most Estimated Interchanges Clapham Junction
Most Popular Season Ticket Destination London Waterloo
Least Popular Season Ticket Destination(s)***** Combe, Buckenham
(1 each)

****References Entries Into The System Only.
*****A further 127 station have No Season Ticket usage at all. Note: That is Combe, Oxfordshire not Coombe, Cornwall. 

To Read the full ORR stats report click here.

References: Estimates Of Station Usage 2014/15
Photo Credits: Mattbuck, Jaggery, Sunil060902, Ewan Munro, Diliff, Mark Hurn. Cover Image by Diliff

– Andy Carter

CAS Weekly 09/09/15

Image by Hugh Llewelyn

Image by Hugh Llewelyn


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