Sunday 23rd February 2020
If was 100 years ago it would be called Norton Junction Station but as it’s 2020 today’s brand new addition to the National Rail network is christened Worcestershire Parkway.
The £22 million GWR run station is located where the North Cotswold Line (from Paddington and Oxford to Worcester) crosses the main line from Cheltenham to Birmingham. It’s a handy site a couple of miles from Junction 7 on the M5 south east of Worcester on the B4084. There aren’t many houses nearby, just a few in the village of Norton, but that’s not the point, because as its name implies, this station is aimed at drivers bringing their cars and parking them in the 500 space car park and catching a train.
Google’s satellite imagery shows the location of the station in relation to Worcester…
… and a rather nice YouTube video from the County Council includes an aerial drone shot showing how the station spans the dual track Cheltenham to Birmingham line (left to right in the photo below) with the single track North Cotswold line (bottom to top).
Here’s another still from the video showing the extensive car park under construction.
Worcestershire County Council have been keen on the idea of a Parkway station for a good many years. Way back in 2007 it set aside £3 million to develop plans for a station but it wasn’t until ten years later the Council’s plans were finally approved by the DfT and work on the station got going in 2018. It was hoped to have it open for May 2019, then December 2019 but from today, better late than never, Worcestershire Parkway is open for business.
Explaining the fraught thiteen year process to opening, Councillor Ken Pollock, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Economy and Infrastructure, at the County Council gave an official quote: “the journey to opening the station has been complex; from purchasing the land to tackling flooding, reconstructing a 300 metre railway embankment, protecting a range of habitats, installing a road traffic roundabout, installing new pedestrian and cycling access, including a new bridge, new utility supplies, constructing three new 265 metre long platforms and 500 space car park, having new timetables approved by the DfT and agreeing an innovative funding mechanism with the rail industry”.
Thankfully the day has finally arrived and Worcester residents (and those living further afield) can now drive to their new Parkway station and catch an hourly Cross Country train on the Cardiff to Nottingham service or instead of Shrub Hill or Foregate Street stations in the centre of Worcester, catch a GWR train hourly to Paddington or westwards to Great Malvern or Hereford from the station’s three platforms.
The building housing the entrance foyer and three (yes three!) windows for ticket sales…
…is rather impressive with lots of space, wide staircases and lifts.
Here you’ll also find accessible toilets (there aren’t any non-accessible toilets)…
… but with no pull up and down toilet seat, so my advice (especially for ladies) would be to take antiseptic wipes with you if you want to sit down.
Out on the platforms, the £22 million hasn’t stretched to a prependerance of shelters with just a bog standard offering on each of the three platforms containing bench type seats or perches.
This basic facility contrasts with that impressive entrance to the station building, and, as you can see from the photos of platforms 2 and 3 above, you might not even notice there is a shelter set back further along the platform in each case.
There’s not a particularly generous provision of seating either. I only spotted four on platform 1.
More positively for rail passengers there are some new intriguing interchange options to travel from say Cheltenham to Oxford which will now be possible by a convenient change from Cross Country to GWR at Worcestershire Parkway taking 90 minutes and saving 20 minutes previously via Didcot and 45 minutes via Birmingham. The trouble is it doesn’t quite work out so conveniently in the other direction.
Inevitably with these things a token sum has been lobbed in to fund an improved bus connection into central Worcester. Bizarrely this is paying for a new hourly timetable on First Worcester’s X50 route on Sundays.
This route runs hourly on Mondays to Saturdays with the last bus around 1900, but from today the brand new hourly Sunday timetable gets going about 10:00 and continues right through until 23:00 running as far as Pershore and providing an evening service which doesn’t run on Mondays to Saturdays, which is a bit anomalous.
It was good to see a degree of priority road space allocated to this hourly bus to get passengers close to the station entrance …
…and two shelters have been installed except there’s no plate signage and no timetables. Well, the station’s only been in gestation for thirteen years, so you can’t expect everything on day 1!
The electronic sign adjacent to the shelters rather optimistically has plenty of room for more bus departures than the one an hour in each direction. Maybe it’ll work one day soon too!
Connections between buses and trains aren’t brilliant either, with weekday arrivals at 23 minutes past the hour from Worcester and 38 minutes past the hour back to Worcester whereas Cross Country trains depart at 14 minutes past the hour to Birmingham and 58 minutes past the hour to Cardiff. Handy if your arriving from Birmingham or Cardiff and want to get into Worcester, but not very helpful in the other direction. But that’s the trouble with providing “seamless integration” between hourly services. You can only make them work going one way. Many people calling for better modal connections often fail to appreciate this obvious point.
I was a bit surprised to see the car park charges, bearing in mind it’s a Parkway station. £5 per day seemed pretty high to me (£4.50 on the App).
And there was only one pay machine; presumably to encourage people to pay by the App.
As with these things these days, there’s plenty of spaces allocated to charging points but of course, if commuters use them, the car will be parked and plugged in all day.
The station ‘forecourt’ has been nicely landscaaped including a pond type of thing which seemed to have outlets for waste water to either run into or run off from.
There’s also a rather intracate footbridge structure at the southern end of platforms 1 and 2 which can be accessed outside of the station building and enable pedestrians to cross the line. This didn’t look to be accessible though.
There were a lot of first day sightseers and station first-day tick-off visitors today and it’s always good to see a new station open on the network so a warm welcome to Worcestershire Parkway.
I hope the new Sunday bus route soon gains a passenger or two.
And it was nice to see such a large BR/National Rail logo/sign too – one of the largest I’ve seen for a long time.