Just 29,382 people got on or off a train at South Greenford station in the last fiscal year. It’s the same amount of people walking through Waterloo in an hour on a weekday. It would not even fill a third of Wembley Stadium.
But the station has survived hundreds of others across the capital who have faced the chop over the same years it has been open.
There must be a reason. For the station’s 95th birthday this coming Monday (September 20), I knocked out my oysters and headed down to the obscure spot tucked away in a cut behind a six-lane dual carriageway in West London.
READ MORE: I visited where the London Underground ‘ends’ and discovered that it is in the middle of a forest
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First impressions mean everything
My journey from central London made it clear why South Greenford was absolutely last when it comes to passenger numbers: It’s a pain to get to.
Currently, there is only one train per hour to get there outside of rush hour, and that implies a change in either Greenford or West Ealing.
South Greenford used to have a direct service to Paddington, but the platforms it used were necessary for the TfL Rail, so it was cut down to West Ealing, leaving an awkward connection.
I took my way to Perivale on the Central Line and continued 12 minutes on foot to London’s least used station.
Here I was facing hiccup number one – A40. To actually get to the main station entrance, I had to cross a metal bridge that was swaying as I took my way over it. Ok, I’m very big, but I would be lying if I said I thought the bridge looked healthy.
Healthy, I certainly did not feel like I was sucking in the steam from six lanes blowing into the station entrance. The station is pretty basic.
Two small wooden platforms, 100 meter long access ramps onto the main road and no connection from one platform to the other. If you get the wrong platform, leave the station, continue on the road and enter the right side.
However, I can not imagine that there would be many people with that problem.
‘Many people’ even stretches it. If you take the 29,382 number and divide it by the 302 days of running trains (there are no trains on public holidays and Sundays), that equates to 97 people a day.
Now look down at this number and look at the minimum number of trains that stop there per day, 32, that is 3 people per day. Took. Is a train station worth existing for three people per. Took?
In the 35 minutes I spent at the station, I was the only person there.
No love lost
I checked the facilities at the station. Impressive for what it is, help points, two Oyster readers per. Platform, information screens, full schedules and waiting sheds. If the platforms were not obscured from the road, I would have called it ‘cute’.
I swapped platforms to catch a northbound train to the last stop Greenford, just three minutes away. I stopped to talk to two passers-by, both of whom happened to be locals.
A man out on a trip was devastating in his verdict: “I think it will go to be honest with you. People do not use it properly. I used to use it a few times when I worked in Langley, but to be honest Tube is much easier. “
Clearly what has kept it going, it acts as a sort of shuttle that mainly gets people from that part of the Ealing district to the Central Line or the Great Western Main Line to work – it has been resilient to it. The question now is whether that demand will still be there for another 95 years.
He was continuing his way towards Perivale when I stopped a lady to ask if she had ever used this little used train stop. I explained my interest in the station, which she was flummoxed by. “Is it no longer going to Paddington?” She asked me and illustrated how little used it is. “Not since 2016 I think,” I replied.
You can forgive her for her archaic assumption. Station signs are still marked with ‘First Great Western’, the former name given to GWR train services. They changed their name in 2015. It’s almost 2022.
A number game
Since there are no ticket barriers in South Greenford unless someone sat and watched a whole year of CCTV worth and counted all the people, there is no real way to figure out how many people use the station.
If we accept the likelihood that a proportion of the passengers who hop on and off either do not have a valid ticket or have a valid ticket that does not need to be registered on one of the two contactless readers or one with South Greenford as a destination such as. a paper card, then we must assume that the actual number of passengers using the station is higher and that the number 29,382, which is an estimate, is somewhat inaccurate.
The problem with this is that it effectively creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. The longer the station does not have ticket barriers, the extra people will still not be registered and the station will continue to be shown at the bottom of the consumer league.
At a time when all modes of transport are being heavily scrutinized due to poor pandemic economics, the future of the station and passenger services on the line it sits on between West Ealing and Greenford is certainly gloomier than its surrounding siblings, with passenger numbers beginning to recover , and the Elizabeth line is set to give a shot in the arm to the area connection.
Make it 100
There have been plans to increase the frequency on the boundary line, which would help increase the number of passengers, although the potential of the branch is limited because it is not electric and its platforms are only two carriages that effectively ‘box it’. It could not be connected to the Elizabeth line, as it would encounter in West Ealing without millions of pounds of investment.
The line itself is unlikely to go anywhere. It is a useful link between West London, the Midlands and the North thanks to a connection to the Chiltern Main Line beyond Greenford. A Chiltern ‘ghost train’ a day runs down this line of uninterrupted South Greenford, as part of an old rule that train companies adhere to to avoid a costly legal closure procedure.
If you are reading this article and are curious about the really strange, quiet and whimsical parts of London’s transport network, South Greenford is definitely worth a visit. However, do not go all at once, if the station becomes popular, the news will wear off and it will not be London’s quietest station much longer.
Congratulations on your 95th birthday in South Greenford, keep staying there!
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Have you ever used South Greenford Station? What was your impression of it? Let us know in the comments below!
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