“ Nottingham Road / Loughborough / Leicestershire / LE11 1EX „
In my experience I have found Loughborough station to be one of the most delightful railway stations to use in England, this is especially the case after the refit that has been completed this year (2012). The station is maintained very well and services are frequent for links to both the north and London. East Midlands Trains are the current operator of the station and to their credit the staff are pleasant to deal with and they have not attempted to cut costs with the addition of the newly extended platforms.
A Short History
Loughborough certainly does not have one of the most elaborate or dramatic histories of all the stations in Britain. The stationed was built and opened in 1840 and at the time was one of three stations that served the town. The station has retained many of the features from when it was built although it has clearly been well looked after because it still has most of the original features. Another unknown fact that many commuters fail to realize is that it is a grade two listed building and this adds to the charm of the station.
The location And Local Travel Connections
In my opinion this is arguably the only downside of the station because it is not located centrally to the town. Many university students now call Loughborough home and this has certainly been a key factor in the considerable increase in usage of the station compared to even ten years ago. During term time the student population is 25% of the overall population of Loughborough, in 1970 there were around 3,000 students whilst today it has turned into a vast institute that provides further education for over 16,000. Students come from as far a field as China and South East Asia as well as from all corners of the UK. With the growth of the university has come a requirement for the strengthening of local public transport. However the problem originates in the fact that the railway station is actually about 2 miles from the university using the main roads, if you were to walk the route it is an equally daunting 1.7 miles which is ambitious for a type of people typically not used to getting out of bed before midday! Even for the non university dwellers of Loughborough the station is about 0.7 miles from the centre of town with several crossings of busy roads, this hardly makes it ideal for those with mobility problems or those with toddlers. The only solution for those with lots baggage would be to use one of the many taxis that are readily available from outside the station building, I found that an average fare is about £5 although don't quote me on this to the drivers! The journey will generally take about 10 minutes to the university campus. A frequent bus service can also be used for the short journey to the centre of town and then on towards the university but it is worth baring in mind that the buses are only small and have very limited room for bags, this is operated by a local bus company called Kinchbus. A bus from the station to the main university campus is £1.70 and return tickets are not available, fares are paid to the driver on the bus. The trip from the station to the centre of town will cost £1.40, I personally think this is too high for the journey and if you are not in a rush defiantly consider doing it on foot if you want to save the pennies. Despite the bizarre situation over return tickets there is something called the town easycard that can be purchased on the bus, this costs £6 for a child and £12 for an adult. On showing the ticket you are entitled to ten single trips within Loughborough, this is a good plan for those just hopping into town and over the ten journeys it will generally save you about £2, this all adds up for the regular commuter. If the easycard is used for ten journeys from the university to the station you are looking at a saving of £5, but be sure not to lose the card as it is non refundable. The service that covers the train station and the university or centre of town does not have a number, instead it is called the 'sprint' service and on a normal weekday services will begin at about 07:30am and operate about every 10 minutes, this is ideal for when a planned journey is running late. In my experience the bus is rarely crowded and will generally run to time except during times of severe congestion in the centre of town. The services become less frequent in the late evening and the last bus departs the railway station at 9:00pm. It is worth noting that the timetables change at short notice depending on whether it is university term time or not, such is life in a university town I guess. The Saturday timetables are very similar to their weekday counterparts and a half hourly service operates on a Sunday linking all of the main places from 10:00am through to 8:00pm during university term time. I have found the buses to be very clean, a copy of the free Metro newspaper is not available although I question if you could read it fully in the maximum journey time of 20 minutes, I do think it would be a nice thought.
National Transport Links
To London: Loughborough station is on the Midland Mainline which connects London with the Midlands and the most northern station of Sheffield. The most popular journey other that local trips to Leicester is the journey of 1 hour and 7 minutes with the fast train to London, this will normally call at only Leicester and then go directly into London St Pancras. The express services can be more expensive than the semi-fast service that also goes to London along the same route, the only difference is that it calls at Leicester, Market Harborough, Kettering, Luton Airport Parkway and Bedford before London St Pancras and will usually take about 1 hour and 40 minutes. All services to London are operated by East Midlands Trains and depart from platform two almost always. Two trains will stop at the station every hour on this route, usually with the semi-fast service at 20 past the hour and the fast service at 40 past the hour.
From London: Journeys from London St Pancras follow the same format as those departing Loughborough, there are typically two trains that stop at the station every hour throughout the day and these operate on the same fast service followed by a semi-fast service. Trains coming from London will usually go on to call at Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield although it is becoming increasingly common to find trains now terminating at Nottingham via Derby. East Midlands Trains are now putting on certain special summer routes that go further than Sheffield to allow passengers to visit places such as York and finally Scarborough without having to change train. This is a common alternative at weekends and it is now normal to see families at Loughborough station heading off for a day trip to the sea side (these service all originate at London St Pancras). Services for Sheffield and beyond (no Buzz Lightyear pun intended!) will usually depart from platform one, this is the one closest to the ticket barriers.
Other Routes: With the Midland Mainline dominating the station there is little room for the splattering of commuter trains that call at Loughborough station. Despite the fact that platform three is devoted to commuter services, the destinations on offer seem to escape publicity. An hourly train to Leicester uses this platform as well as the service to Lincoln, having spoken to many passengers that regularly travel through the station, around three quarters were unaware that this service even existed. The timetable seems to fluctuate depending on holiday times and naturally the time of day but it is common for trains to go further than Lincoln, to places such as Sleaford and Cambridge (ideal for a day trip).
In preparation for the Olympics the station was subject to considerable building work which was completed by May 2012, I certainly think that this work is well overdue because previously the platforms could only accommodate five full coaches, this meant that passengers in the rear coach and the front coach had to walk to the middle coaches in order to get off the train. This was notorious for causing many problems with foreign people who did not understand the on board announcements as well as unsuspecting people who were listening to music who found themselves rather alarmed if the doors would not open to let you off. However with the recent development the station now can easily hold a ten carriage train (normal East Midlands Trains service are seven coaches long). Improvements have also been made to the lift system to allow disabled across the track, the previous system was almost pre-historic and was very often not in operation. Additional alterations have been made to area for leaving bikes, the car park which rather bizarrely has decreased in size and also the platform toilets. I was absolutely delighted that they have decided to leave the small convenience store that inhabits platform one, because it sells fantastic home made sandwiches as well as anything else for a long journey, all of this at a very reasonable price. My only slight complaint about the refurbishment is the fact that the car park has actually got smaller (now 180 spaces) because of the installation of a barrier and hence the competition for a place for the whole day is considerable. The problem is made worse by the fact there is a lack of a large car park nearby, the only solution I can think of is to park in the multi-level car park in town and then either catch a bus or walk to the station, not very practical in reality. All of the development was clearly planned with the Olympics in mind but in the long term the potential electrification of the Midland Mainline may mean that the station management were keen to establish it is a important part of the network and to make sure that it does not fall victim to some of the larger stations along the line.
The station is equipped with both a ticket office and ticket vending machines which can be used 24 hours a day, I did find that if you are using cash this is only possible with the machine on the left as you look at the station, the other one is card only. This is poorly advertised and can often lead to long queues at peak times, allow at least 5 minutes. I could not find an ATM machine at the station which is defiantly a downside and something that I would have expected to have been put right during the recent refurbishments. Ticket barriers are in operation during the day although this is rarely the case after nine o'clock at night as they need to be manned when in use. Staffing levels are pretty good to be honest for a station of its size and they can be found even late at night which is reassuring to know!
Loughborough station is one of the most traveller friendly that I know of and is not that complicated that you can become lost. The station would undoubtedly benefit from the installation of a cash machine. Transport links to the centre of town are generally good and user friendly. Loughborough is perhaps not as daunting as Leicester or Birmingham and certainly does not feel as enclosed, this makes it ideal for any first time visitor to the town.
This review may also be published on Dooyoo under the username chrisbriers567.