Which parts of Great Britain are furthest from a train station?

A station, of the sort you won't find in much of the Highlands or West Wales. Image: Getty.

In my ongoing quest to answer the burning questions of our times, I decided to use some data-based boffinry to expxlore some issues I sometimes think of when zipping up and down the country on the train. I'm sure I can't be the only one, so here are some results that I've had saved up for a while.

The first question is, “Which parts of Great Britain are furthest from a train station?” The second is, “How many train stations are there in each local authority or parliamentary constituency?” Yes, I know I need to get out more – but if you're reading this you probably do too, so take a look at the first two maps below.

Not exactly earth shattering, but some interesting snippets.

You can click on this to see a bit more detail.

Not entirely unexpected patterns here, really. I did this in part to use as teaching material in the future (it uses a basic GIS operation), and I set the boundary at 30km just because it produces an interesting result.

You can see the area around Bude in North Cornwall is England's largest area without a station. This issue has been raised in parliament many times, including in 2014 by the previous MP for the area.

The furthest areas from stations are all in the mostly sparsely populated north and west Highlands, but also in and about the Cairngorms and the Borders – though the latter has just got a lot smaller thanks to the re-opening of the Borders Railway. West Wales and a bit of North Wales also fall off the map. Lastly, there’s a tiny sliver of land in Yorkshire that sits just outside this 30km buffer distance.

Some zoomed in maps follow:

This is just on the Scotland-England border.

Around Bude in North Cornwall (and a bit on Exmoor).

A zoomed in map of train station deserts in the Highlands.

The Norfolk train-free zones.

The West Wales no-rail-zone.

Looking for trains in the Yorkshire Dales? Avoid this bit.

Okay, so having answered one burning question, let's briefly turn to the other. How many areas in Great Britain (and I'm just referring to the island of Great Britain) do not have a station?

For Local Authorities, I make it 12 out of 376 and for Westminster Constituencies, I make it 49 out of 630. I've screenshotted the two files here but you can also explore them yourself in Google Drive

Many stations in the largest areas, obviously.

 

Same as above – e.g. Highland coves a larger area than Wales.

What should we conclude from this? Not much, but It's quite interesting to look at the local authorities or constituencies that do not have a train station – of which there are 2,557 listed in the Office of Rail and Road 2015-16 data that I used for this.

The next two maps show where there are no stations - but there are possibly a couple of small inaccuracies (Kensington & Chelsea being one, as three national rail stations are right on the border there).

This is very interesting.

If you've read this far, you should get out more.

Okay, so that's about it. Some data notes below if anyone is interested. Also, the spreadsheets in the Google Drive folder have passenger entry and exit data – that is, the headline 'passengers' figures that are used to identify the busiest stations (e.g. Waterloo with nearly 100m in 2015-16). I have also added in average, max, min and sum figures on passengers for the aggregated local authority and parliamentary constituency numbers. Hours of fun.


Some notes on the data: Follow this link to get the 2015-16 data on stations that I used here – including the eastings and northings for station locations.

I got the boundaries from the excellent ONS Geography Portal and they are, of course Crown Copyright (but also open data) – as in, Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right (2017).

The data are compiled by Steer Davies Gleave on behalf of the Office of Rail and Road and they are accompanied by this interesting two page summary. In addition to the two spreadsheets, I have also uploaded the images in this post to the Google Drive folder.

Train station vs railway station? I'm not bothered about this, or with data is/data are.

Dr Alasdair Rae is a senior lecturer in the urban studies & planning department of the University of Sheffield. This article was originally posted on his blog, and is reposted here with the author's permission.

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Barnet council has decided a name for its new mainline station. Exciting!

Artist's impression of the new Brent Cross. Image: Hammerson.

I’ve ranted before about the horror of naming stations after the lines that they’re served by (screw you, City Thameslink). So, keeping things in perspective as ever, I’ve been quietly dreading the opening of the proposed new station in north London which has been going by the name of Brent Cross Thameslink.

I’ve been cheered, then, by the news that station wouldn’t be called that at all, but will instead go by the much better name Brent Cross West. It’s hardly the cancellation of Brexit, I’ll grant, but in 2017 I’ll take my relief wherever I can find it.

Some background on this. When the Brent Cross shopping centre opened besides the A406 North Circular Road in 1976, it was only the third large shopping mall to arrive in Britain, and the first in London. (The Elephant & Castle one was earlier, but smaller.) Four decades later, though, it’s decidedly titchy compared to newer, shinier malls such as those thrown up by Westfield – so for some years now, its owners, Hammerson, have wanted to extend the place.

That, through the vagaries of the planning process, got folded into a much bigger regeneration scheme, known as Brent Cross Cricklewood (because, basically, it extends that far). A new bigger shopping centre will be connected, via a green bridge over the A406, to another site to the south. There you’ll find a whole new town centre, 200 more shops, four parks, 4m square feet of offices space and 7,500 homes.

This is all obviously tremendously exciting, if you’re into shops and homes and offices and not into depressing, car-based industrial wastelands, which is what the area largely consists of at the moment.

The Brent Cross site. Image: Google.

One element of the new development is the new station, which’ll sit between Hendon and Cricklewood on the Thameslink route. New stations are almost as exciting as new shops/homes/offices, so on balance I'm pro.

What I’ve not been pro is the name. For a long time, the proposed station has been colloquially referred to as Brent Cross Thameslink, which annoys me for two reasons:

1) Route names make rubbish modifiers because what if the route name changes? And:

2) It’s confusing, because it’s nearly a mile from Brent Cross tube station. West Hampstead Thameslink (euch), by contrast, is right next to West Hampstead tube.

Various other names have been proposed for the station. In one newsletter, it was Brent Cross Parkway; on Wikipedia, it’s currently Brent Cross South, apparently through confusion about the name of the new town centre development.

This week, though, Barnet council quietly confirmed it’d be Brent Cross West:

Whilst the marketing and branding of BXS needs to be developed further, all parties agree that the station name should build upon the Brent Cross identity already established. Given the station is located to the west of Brent Cross, it is considered that the station should be named Brent Cross West. Network Rail have confirmed that this name is acceptable for operational purposes. Consequently, the Committee is asked to approve that the new station be named Brent Cross West.

Where the new station will appear on the map, marked by a silly red arrow. Image: TfL.

That will introduce another irritating anomaly to the map, giving the impression that the existing Brent Cross station is somehow more central than the new one, when in fact they’re either side of the development. And so:

Consideration has also been given as to whether to pursue a name change for the tube station from “Brent Cross” to “Brent Cross East”.

Which would sort of make sense, wouldn’t it? But alas:

However owing to the very high cost of changing maps and signage London-wide this is not currently being pursued.

This is probably for the best. Only a handful of tube stations have been renamed since 1950: the last was Shepherd’s Bush Market, which was until 2008 was simply Shepherd's Bush, despite being quite a long way from the Shepherd's Bush station on the Central line. That, to me, suggests that one of the two Bethnal Green stations might be a more plausible candidate for an early rename.


At any rate: it seems unlikely that TfL will be renaming its Brent Cross station to encourage more people to use the new national rail one any time soon. But at least it won’t be Brent Cross Thameslink.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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