diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Random borough (16): Brent (part 3)

Somewhere un-famous: Sudbury & Harrow Road station
Harrow Road, SudburyLondon's most useless railway station is in Brent. It has fewer paying passengers than any of the other 300-or-so stations in the capital. According to official statistics it's used by only 2500 passengers a year. It's no remote halt in the middle of a field, it's in a proper urban location on a busy high street. It's served by trains only during the weekday rush hour, and then only in one direction at a time. It has just nine trains a day - four into town in the morning and five back again in the evening. It is a sorry apology for a station and owners Chiltern Railways clearly treat it with complete indifference. It is Sudbury & Harrow Road. And yes, of course I had to pay a visit.

I wonder if it's a coincidence that the number 18 bendy bus terminates on the Harrow Road precisely outside the entrance to this forlorn station [photo]. Catch the nasty evil articulated bus from here and you could be in Marylebone in less than an hour. Wait for a train and you could be waiting for up to three days. A lone British Rail sign and a tiny purple nameplate mark the station entrance for any would-be passengers. There's no ticket office, just a "Permit to Travel" machine and a pair of freshly-installed Oyster readers [photo]. I suspect that just the one reader would have been sufficient. The bike rack has just four spaces (don't all fight at once). Turn left to enter the dark concrete passage beneath the railway embankment. In a busier station this might smell of urine and sicked-up curry, but not at Sudbury & Harrow Road. I stepped inside, and headed up the central staircase to the station proper [photo].

Sudbury & Harrow Road stationThere are two parallel platforms, a few metres apart, with the top of the stairs forming a small island between the two. If it's raining you can hide beneath the red arched plastic roof, or maybe take a seat on the single central bench. There's room for two, maybe three if you squeeze up close. To the right I spotted a padlocked cupboard containing "Adverse Weather Equipment", and to the left a yellow box labelled "Passenger Help Point" (singular, not plural). Oh, and also a couple of TV display screens transmitting flickering information from Chiltern HQ. These informed me that, not only were there no trains stopping today, there were also no trains running due to planned engineering work. Fantastic, I had this entire remote outpost completely to myself, with no interruptions.

I took a silent stroll from one end of the station [photo] to the other [photo]. Each platform was little more than a long wooden boardwalk, about a metre off the ground, with a spiky slatted fence rising up behind. Between the two lay a forgotten grassy trench, littered with discarded bottles, cans and the odd deflated football. A handful of thin blue lampposts broke the emptiness, on which were stuck scrappy stickers warning the occasional patron not to smoke [photo]. From Platform 1 I had a fine view down into the back gardens of Sudbury, towards rickety sheds and washing lines pegged out with damp undergarments. And down in Harrow Road were scores of people rushing around, buying this and that, rushing hither and thither, and queueing to catch a bus to somewhere else.

It's a shame that so few local residents look up to the embankment for a means of escape, but perhaps not surprising given that this station merits such a pitifully irregular service. 45 trains a week is no way to build up a regular clientèle, and so the vicious underfunded circle of transport decline continues. "The next train to London Marylebone will depart in 2500 minutes." I headed back down the stairs to the bus stop, and the station returned to timetabled hibernation.
by tube: Sudbury Town [photo]   by bus: 18, 92, 182, 245

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