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The UK has a number of ‘ghost trains’ which run very rarely, and are mostly deserted when they do leave the platform. Here is a quick guide to what they are, why they exist, and how to catch a ride.
The UK’s ghost trains are officially known as ‘parliamentary trains’, because they exist only to fulfil a statistical quota, offering the minimum possible service, so that politicians don’t have to announce the official closure of the line or route.
Parliamentary trains run about as often as politicians admit they’re wrong about something: very, very rarely, and when they hope you won’t notice. Herein lies the tragedy and beauty of ghost trains.
Ride a ghost train
Since they are designed not to be noticed, they not only run very rarely, but also at inconvenient times, and often only one way. So if you’re thinking of taking a parliamentary train as part of your busy itinerary, or as a means to getting somewhere you want to be, you’d better think again. The only reason you will ever want to ride one of these things is for the novelty value.
But should you like a whole train to yourself, going to a bizarre, often deserted station, these could be for you. Try, for example, the service from Chester to Runcorn, which runs just once service a week on Saturday mornings, one way, and only in the summer! Or hop aboard the delightfully obscure Stockport to Stalybridge Line, which has one train per week at 10.13am on Fridays.
If you’re in the London area, a thrilling way to spend a Saturday morning is to get up at the crack of dawn (or just before) and head to Liverpool Street station, where a ghost train runs to Enfield Town (via South Tottenham) at 5.31 in the morning, every Saturday, but only on Saturdays. And of course it’s one-way only.