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Walsall Train Station
Member Name: davidbuttery
Walsall Train Station
Date: 02/11/09, updated on 07/11/09 (120 review reads)
Advantages: Central location, ticket office open all day
Disadvantages: Uninspiring surroundings, not many facilities
Walsall can be a nice place to go for a bit of shopping when the hustle and bustle of Birmingham gets too much: it has a good selection of shops, but not so many as to be overwhelming. For those, like me, for whom driving is not an option, there's the choice of bus or train - but the buses from Birmingham, while frequent and reasonably cheap, are very slow, so rail is the best way to get there. Once you are there, though, it pays to be acquainted with the station, since although it's not large it does have one or two features which can cause a measure of disorientation.
There's only one station in Walsall, which removes one of the potential pitfalls you get when travelling to a new town: at least you're not going to end up two miles away, across a river and on the other side of a motorway, from where you thought you were going! However, Walsall station does have the drawback that it's not all that obvious from the outside, as it's built into the side of the Saddlers Shopping Centre. This is a nicely central location, right in the town centre and just a short walk from the bus station for onward connections. It's also within easy walking distance from the town's noted New Art Gallery.
This station is not the world's most attractive by any means. There are three platforms, with almost nothing in the way of facilities, and at one end they disappear into a gloomy tunnel under a concrete bridge; it's almost a home from home if you're used to the grot and dinge of New Street! Two platforms form an island, with the third on the outer edge of the station. You need to be careful here, as that platform's exit leads out onto a nondescript side street (turn right to get to the town centre) whereas from the other two there's an obvious exit up a wide flight of stairs. Unfortunately, after the shopping centre closes at 6.30 pm, the *only* exit open is the side one: you can still access the ticket office via the stairs, but you can't actually get out that way!
Assuming this is the way you're going, at the top of those stairs you'll find a small concourse area, only semi-separated from the upper floor of the shopping centre. The ticket office is staffed from the first train in the morning through to the last one in the evening, and there's also a ticket machine, some timetable posters and toilets. Use of those, though, requires a key obtainable from the staff and this is enough of a pain to get that you might as well use the free toilets elsewhere in the shopping centre itself. There are no ticket barriers at this station, so it's easy enough to pop out for that, or to grab some food from the Marks & Spencer - or Poundland, if that's more your thing! - just a few steps from the station exit.
Train services from Walsall are all operated by London Midland, and run southbound to Birmingham New Street (journey time about 25 minutes) and northbound to Rugeley Trent Valley (just under an hour). Until a year or so ago there was also a useful direct service to Wolverhampton, but a combination of poor timetabling, competition from slower but very frequent buses and a lack of advertising meant that it was almost always very lightly loaded, and it has now been reduced to a "Parliamentary" service: a very occasional train simply to avoid the expense and bureaucracy of formal closure procedures. For example, tomorrow there is one train from Walsall to Wolverhampton, and none at all in the other direction. It's not worth bothering with any more, which is very sad.
Despite that complaint and the uninspiring aesthetics of the place, Walsall station is not too bad as stations of its size go. It scores most highly for its convenient location, and it is very well connected to Birmingham for longer-distance travel. I wouldn't exactly call this station a tourist attraction, but it does its job competently enough for the most part.
Summary: Dull but competent railway station