Northampton has a brand new station! It’s not the most exciting station but has the town only Starbucks and Coffee Republic so considered a metropolitan building in this increasing dump of a town. We had been deemed sophisticated enough for Costa Coffee in Northampton so far. Northampton used to be an important transport hub back in the days of steam and no motorways and had no less than three stations in the town but now increasingly industrial and irrelevant and suited to lorries. We had a commuter station on Guild Hall Road in the 19th Century and Northampton Bridge Station was open as late as the 1960s on a busy line that would run from west to east through Northampton and involved in the great Train Robbery. It’s a shame the line closed down as Northampton commuters and East Anglia passengers could get access to all kinds of places without having to wait around at coach stations. I could be at New Road cricket ground in Worcester in 40 minutes on the old steamers or even get to Bristol! Unless you want to go to London, Manchester or Birmingham then the current north to south mainline is rather dull and expensive to get anywhere other than those places. I wanted to go to Cardiff for a day’s cricket next week and Trainline quoted £186 day return! It’s just not realistic having day returns on coaches to these places as they stop everywhere.
Castle station, as it’s now known, is one of those modern office block glass fronted designs and anything but a statement building, I thought the point of new build in an ambitious growing town. We are trying to remodel ourselves as a university town with huge educational buildings planned and already built, including a brand new NU school across the road from the station. The old station was converted train sheds and the ticket office entrance not much bigger than your front room and a tiny café for tea and coffee and so pretty poor. A thousand years ago there was a significant castle on the site and Britain’s parliament was based there around the time of the War of the Roses. The castle remains today are rather pathetic as various kings ordered the site to be trashed over history, now just a sign-posted grass mound across the road from the station. I always think about how the town would have looked with Dover Castle in the middle.
As I say it’s all new and shiny now and much bigger spaces to wait for friends or wave them off and get your tickets and stuff. Stations should echo and be bustling. It’s just ten minutes walk from the center and so need for a cab if that is your destination. In the last ten years Northampton has seen a 40% increase of passengers with the massive immigration issues and now well over two million people a year using it. There are two floors so to house more eating and drink places and has good tourist information and waiting areas. The ticket office is on the top deck and it’s a quick flash your ticket through the turnstiles and you are on your train. To support the new build Virgin Trains now stop twice a day in Northampton on their London service if you want to bomb down the spine of the country. If you want to go north on Virgin you have to go south to Milton Keynes to catch it. Other than that it’s London Midland that runs the service, terminating at London Euston and Birmingham New Street to the north, 3 trains per hour off peak. Before 9:30am you have to pay much higher commuter rates, railway funding increasingly moved on to middle-class commuters.
Northampton – London is around £23 day return and £35 peak
Northampton – Birmingham is around £11 day return and £20 peak.
The big negative for the station is the building work on the new carpark has not been so keen and we have an ugly open air three layer thing where you park up, £8.50 a day and hardly looks secure. You can do weekly and the like rates if you are going on holiday from the countries nearest airports, £33 for 7 days. The taxi rank outside the stations lower floor is disgusting and your stilettos could easily find a drain lid or hole and the cycle rack pathetic. The six month delay to the station build seems to have caused these problems as contractors switched all their efforts back to the main building to avoid increasing late delivery fines. As I say the main building is good and spacious and the coffee shops and WH Smith for your newspapers and magazines quiet and so no problem there while you wait. There are ticket vending machines if you are brave enough to put notes and credit cards into those things. Smart card stuff is not available. There is ATM for all major banks and car rental by Enterprise and we finally have trolleys for your luggage! For the disabled there is a lift and a ramp for all platforms. Wheelchair access is only available from the lower floor so you need to take the side entrance on the right to access the trains and booking office. It’s unclear why there is no ramp and the main entrance.
===Booking Office Hours===
Monday - Friday 06:00 - 21:00
Saturday 06:00 - 21:00
Sunday 06:45 - 20:00
Before I got my driving licence, I took the train to a lot of places around the country and hence I have been to quite a lot of train stations around the UK.
I found that most train stations in the UK are pretty much the same. Platforms, stairs, ticket office, trains and over priced coffee shops. A lot of a stations these days tend to look dirty, unkempt and bland, with peeling paint, faded signs and graffittied walls and benches, with litter around the place, despite the fact there is bins for the purpose of people litter.
Some of the larger stations do look like someone cares for them, they have been cleaned and tidied and the paint isn't in a total state. It seems the smaller stations in the middle of no where get no love or attention, and my local train station is one of those that seems some what forgotten about. Where as the station is clean, it just looks old and un cared for. The ticket office is usually closed due to staff shortages, although I would have thought after all these years someone would have taken a job there!
Main stations in big cities can be either fantastic looking, or just a terrible mess. I have seen some stations in London that were amazingly clean and tidy, with great information and staff to help you with anything you need, and there were some stations that had miserable and rude staff, that really didn't help me with any problems and questions I had, and the station looked like it needed a whole rebuild.
It seems that train stations in the UK are an item that is somewhat forgotten about, just depends on which station you are at. You can almost guarentee that a coffee will cost you more than it ever should, there will be rubbish somewhere, and you may not be able to find any staff members when you need some help.
Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway.
The Paignton Station is located at Queens Park Station Torbay Road, Paignton TQ4 6AF It is right next to the mainline station and close to several car parks and the bus station.
The journey along seven miles of track is fantastic, it is a great way to visit Dartmouth if you are staying in Paignton. There are several stops, Goodrington, Churston and Kingswear. At Kingswear you can get the ferry over to Dartmouth which is well worth a visit. You can also buy a ticket that includes the ferry crossing or a round robin ticket which includes train trip between Kingswear and Paignton, ferry between Dartmouth and Kingswear, river cruise between Dartmouth and Totnes and open top bus between Totnes and Paignton.
Return train Paignton - Kingswear
Child (3 - 15 years) £5.50
Senior Citizen £8.00
Family Ticket (2Ad and 2Ch) £25.00
Return train Paignton - Kingswear including ferry
Child (3 - 15 years) £6.50
Senior Citizen £10.00
Family Ticket (2Ad and 2Ch) £30.00
Child (3 - 15 years) £10.00
Senior Citizen £15.50
Family Ticket (2Ad and 2Ch) £50.00
They also offer a special half price ticket for locals, but this is only available on certain trains and does not include the ferry or Round Robin.
You can also go on special trips e.g. Murder Mystery Trips, The Halloween Ghost Train, Thomas the Tank Engine are a few.
The old steam engine are lovely and bring back memories of a bygone age of steam.
The views are terrific and my children love it.
The rail network is poor, there needs to be something more exciting about it! Whether you are travelling in the morning or afternoon, to work, school or to see some friends, some music would be nice while you await your train or on the way to your destination. Being a student I regulrly use different rail companies and have visited a number of stations. There have been countless times when my train has been delayed and I have to wait. The time seems to drag and sfter a while you get fed-up with watching trains come and go and watching people walk by. The tannoy is not exactely exciting. You could listen to a personal stereo but then you have to worry about 'what you are missing', if someone talks to you or there is an important tanoy announcement. On the train is better if you are going to use a personal stereo but again 'you might miss something, like the three occasions the train I was on was terminated at an earlier station! Music at stations and on trains would be great. Local radio, national radio or pre-recorded music, it wouldn't matter as long as it makes for a more relaxing atmosphere. And when your train is late, it is cold and the station is littered with rubbish the music will relax you and make the wait go quicker. Music on the train may provide a conversation topic on long journeys. Radio can provide news, weather, travel information and a variety of music, giving travellers something to listen to rather then listening to others conversations, which after a while can get tiresome all parties. Perhaps there are negatives, but the costs would be small and it may help confidence in Britain's rail service.