diamond geezer

 Thursday, October 13, 2016

The least used station in... Bedfordshire
KEMPSTON HARDWICK
(Annual passenger usage: 7712)

Having already visited the least used stations in Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Greater London and Essex, here's an even quieter one in Bedfordshire. My target is on the Marston Vale line, an unlikely Beeching survivor linking Bletchley to Bedford. Despite an hourly service this particular station attracts an average of only 25 passengers a day, that's not even one per train. I was surprised it's that many.


"To where?" asked the ticket clerk at Bedford station. Either I was mumbling or she doesn't get many requests for Kempston Hardwick, two stops down the line. The size of the train was also a clue. There aren't many places near London served by a 1-carriage train but here's one, purring on platform 1a and ready for the off. At least you get a friendlier guard on these little trains, chirpily checking tickets and conversing with the regulars. The Sprinter departs and quickly diverts from the mainline, heading slowly through the Train Presentation Depot. The first stop is just beyond the River Ouse at Bedford St John's, a dour single platform affair beneath the Ampthill Road. The line then continues past the backs of houses, along the edge of the retail park on the bypass and out into the clayfields that built much of London. There is seemingly nothing here, so that's where I alight. [4 photos]



Just me then? Thought so. I've been deposited on a low wooden platform, one carriage in length, which is another clue as to potential footfall. Interestingly the opposite platform is twice as long, having been deliberately extended, but the southbound remains its original stunted self. The guard peers out of the front of the train to check what I might be doing here, then ducks inside and the Sprinter departs.

Kempston Hardwick station is located between two fields at a level crossing, across which a succession of cars and lorries sporadically careers. Both platforms open out towards the road, while halfway up each is a superfluous step-free ramp, one of them sealed off and slightly overgrown. Only northbound passengers get a bench and shelter, this being the more likely direction for a commute, not that many people seem to bother. White picket fences give the platforms a genuine rural railway feel, as does the notice saying "There are no bus services serving this station". There are also two Next Train Indicator boards, one at each entrance, exactly the same as you'd find on the tube at Whitechapel or Barking (only with a far less good service).



Kempston Hardwick station attracted notoriety back in 2003 when statistics revealed it was one of the least used stations in the country. Only 38 passengers per month were passing through, the equivalent of maybe two commuters, causing national newspapers to send journalists to experience the bleak ennui for themselves. One of the problems was apparently the lack of parking space, although there is now a rough turnaround space beside platform 1 where the crossing keeper's cottage used to be. A bigger problem is the lack of potential customers on the doorstep. The (substantial) village of Wootton lies a mile away across the fields, but few would walk that far, and after dusk in winter the footpaths and lane inbetween would be positively unwelcoming, even downright dangerous.

The village of Kempston Hardwick is a linear settlement, for which read a few houses strung out along a road. I wandered off to take a look, sticking to the narrow verge above the traffic to avoid being mown down. The first houses appeared after a couple of minutes, a pebbledash parade opposite a single lamppost, plus a noticeboard listing the latest parish council agenda. Further down (but sadly invisible from the road), a moat is all that remains of Hardwick Preceptory, a 13th century priory of the Knights Hospitaller. A few industrial premises follow, intermittently, before reaching what might be called the centre of the village, by the Chimney Corner pub on the Bedford Road. The mainline to St Pancras runs close by, but wouldn't pause for a hamlet like this.



There was once a point to Kempston Hardwick station - a pair of brickworks. The largest was at the far end of Manor Road, the Coronation Brickworks, which for nearly half a century it transformed clay quarried nearby into building materials. Landfill eventually became a more profitable enterprise, and in 1980 the brickworks at Chimney Corner were demolished. Guy Michelmore and the Guinness Book of Records were in attendance, the simultaneous toppling of 18 slender chimneys being a genuine one-off, although the About Anglia news report makes the whole thing seem somehow underwhelming. Immediately beside the station, the Eastwoods Flettons brickworks survived a couple of decades longer, with production finally ceasing in 1999. Nothing can be seen of the site from the road, bar an overgrown gated entrance, but a large expanse of rectangular foundations is clearly visible from the train with buddleia bursting through. [aerial view]

It'd make a lot more sense to have a station at Kempston, Bedford's largest satellite, than out here in the middle of nowhere. Hundreds of potential commuters might choose to start their journeys here rather than battling the traffic jams into town, and the aforementioned retail park would suddenly become a lot more accessible to those without a car. Instead Kempston Hardwick gets the hourly trains, the fortunate recipient of budgetary inertia.



But there is major upheaval on the horizon, with the Marston Vale line a linchpin of the proposed East West Rail Route. This key infrastructure project seeks to reconnect Oxford and Cambridge along a line built by the Victorians and severed by Dr Beeching. The first section out of Oxford is due for completion this December, then a freight line east from Bicester will be appropriated and several miles of disused tracks reinstated. Bletchley to Bedford already exists, but from there to Cambridge things get tougher as the old route has been built upon in several places, and a new path will be needed via Sandy. All sorts of exciting new connections will be made possible, maybe by 2019, maybe by 2024, especially for freight traffic which will be able to follow a new 'Electric Spine' across the country. The tracks through Kempston Hardwick will be a lot busier, but none of the additional trains will be timetabled to stop.

The line's so straight here that it's possible to see my returning train four minutes away as it stops at Stewartby. This time I'm on the two-car-length platform and a 2-carriage train turns up, which can't be operationally deliberate and must be a coincidence. The button by the door takes an age to light up, raising the prospect of being stranded here another hour, before finally permitting admittance. Just me, of course. It's not far back to Bedford, past the ex-brickworks and quarried pits, the industrial estates and retail park. There are several reasons to visit the Marston Vale by train, but rest assured Kempston Hardwick isn't one of them.

» Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership
» Bedford to Bletchley Rail Users' Association
» Kempston Hardwick station over the years


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Saturday 10 December (1-3pm)
Bow Church Christmas Fair
Festive fair with mulled wine & music at St Mary's in Bow.

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv