Tuesday 22nd March 2022
Aside from the shiny new mega-size stations about to open in the Crossrail core there are quite a few other brand new stations currently under construction on the national network which are due to open during 2022. It’s a bit of a sweepstake to see which will open first.
There’s Reading Green Park and Thanet Parkway as well as Brent Cross West in the south and work has recently started in earnest on Portway (Park and Ride) near Bristol while in Scotland there’s Reston, north of Berwick-upon-Tweed expected to be ready for December and nearby East Linton next year
Even further north is Dalcross, sited nine miles east of Inverness on the line from Aberdeen on which another new station at Kintore opened in October 2020.
Work is now well underway on constructing the two new platforms at Dalcross on what will also be a doubling of the track at this location creating a new passing loop for trains.
There’ll also be a new footbridge and lifts and a nearby level crossing will close. It’s all costing £14 million – about average for a two platform, doubling track affair of this kind. There’ll be a modest size 64 space car park with the usual electric charging points and disabled bays. I assume the tariff will be devised to deter airport parkers.
Dalcross station has been in the planning since 2017 and work got underway in earnest last year. It’s aiming for a December opening.
I’ve been intrigued about the new Dalcross station ever since hearing the justification for it being adjacent to Inverness Airport. Whenever I’d been to the airport the railway seemed a fair distance from the terminal building – this isn’t a Gatwick or Stansted with the station adjacent to the terminal building – more a Luton in terms of the distance away.
But whereas Luton station has six trains an hour (and a frequent shuttle bus to the terminal building about to be replaced with a Direct Air Rail Transit), Dalcross will only have an hourly train service, which isn’t much good for airport passengers.
While catching flights from an airport always entails getting there with plenty of time to spare for security (even though that’s a doddle in my experience these days) it’s another matter landing and arriving when you don’t want to be hanging around for up to an hour for onward travel, not least because in normal times Stagecoach run a half hourly bus service (route 11) into Inverness which stops right outside the terminal building.
But the new railway station is sited some distance away making for a very inconvenient trek with luggage although I note Network Rail’s latest update reports “Hitrans has significantly upgraded the existing active travel path between the new station and the airport terminal”. I assume by “active travel” they mean walking and cycling but come on HiTrans, people going on holiday, or arriving back, aren’t going to cycle when encumbered with their luggage between station and airport, and won’t fancy a long walk either.
The blurb about the new station also refers to a half hourly bus link between the station and the airport which I’m assuming is the Stagecoach route 11 but realistically how many people are going to catch a half hourly bus from the airport for a five minute ride to a station to wait for an hourly train which is heading to the same destination (assuming Inverness rather than south to Aberdeen) as the bus. You’d just stay on the bus.
Ironically route 11 is currently on a Covid inspired reduced hourly frequency and I can vouch for how inconvenient this is as I flew into Inverness on Friday afternoon with a scheduled arrival of 15:15 and a scheduled bus departure either at 15:07 and 16:07.
I’d resigned myself to a 52 minute wait but in the event EasyJet did the business and landed at 15:07 while Stagecoach helped with modal integration by running eight minutes late meaning I was able to just catch the bus.
In fact impressively, so did 25 other passengers off that flight and it took the driver ten minutes to load us all – and at £5 each for the single fare it was nicely remunerative for Stagecoach.
It was a bit of a squeeze to get everyone on the single deck with their luggage and a shame Stagecoach had allocated the usual bus with additional racking (and that graphic of the aeroplane on the side) to a town route. Later I noticed a double deck bus allocated to the route which would have helped on the journey I made.
After encircling the western perimeter of the airport we passed alongside the works going on for the new station as we crossed over the line and headed into the city.
This gave me a chance to see the new platforms taking shape and pondering just what the purpose of this new station is.
Here’s a large scale OS map of the area showing the location of the new station and what I assume is the upgraded “active travel” route on the line of the original road access before a new ‘oxbow’ style diversion was built.
And here it is from Google maps.
It’ll be interesting to see how passengers and staff working at the airport take to this new travel facility once it opens – which is currently expected to be December 2022, although it looks to me as though there’s a fair amount of work yet to complete. My money would be on Spring 2023.
Finally for today a change of topic and a huge thanks to all those who responded with comments and suggestions to Sunday’s blog about jointly operated bus routes. The tally of commercially operated inter-urban routes remains at the eight listed but partnership arrangements in conurbations involving joint routes have now been expanded to include Merseyside and the West Midlands as well as an additional route in Sheffield. I’ve also added a few of the tendered routes readers highlighted where more than one operator runs the daytime service, including two of the TrawsCymru routes. The final list with added photographs can be found on my website on the home page menu and there’s a handy embedded link here.
Blogging timeable: 06:00 TThSSu.
Next blog, Thursday 24th March 2022: I tried out the secret free bus travel offer in Newport.