World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Parliamentary train

Article Id: WHEBN0003667837
Reproduction Date:

Title: Parliamentary train  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Closure by stealth, Halton Curve, London Midland, Cheap Trains Act 1883, Trains/Anniversaries/August 9/More
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Parliamentary train

Parliamentary trains in the UK were passenger services required by an Act of Parliament passed in 1844 to allow cheap and basic railway travel for less affluent passengers. The legislation required that at least one such service per day was run on every railway route in the United Kingdom.

Such services are no longer a legal requirement, and the term has come to be used instead to describe train services that continue to be run to avoid the cost of formal closure of a route or station, but with services reduced sometimes to one train per week, and without specially low prices. Such services are also often called "ghost trains".[1]


  • Nineteenth-century usage 1
    • In popular culture 1.1
  • Modern usage 2
    • Legacy of the Beeching closures 2.1
    • Speller Act 2.2
    • Examples of extant "parliamentary" trains 2.3
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Nineteenth-century usage

In the earliest days of passenger railways in the United Kingdom the poor were encouraged to travel in order to find employment in the growing industrial centres, but trains were generally unaffordable to them except in the most basic of open wagons, in many cases attached to goods trains.[2]

Great Western Railway open passenger car

Political pressure caused the Board of Trade to investigate, and Sir Robert Peel's Conservative government enacted the Railway Regulation Act, which took effect on 1 November 1844. It compelled "the provision of at least one train a day each way at a speed of not less than 12 miles an hour including stops, which were to be made at all stations, and of carriages protected from the weather and provided with seats; for all which luxuries not more than a penny a mile might be charged".[3]

The legislation no longer applies and "parliamentary trains" in this sense no longer run.

In popular culture

The basic comfort and slow progress of Victorian parliamentary trains led to a humorous reference in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera The Mikado. The Mikado is explaining how he will match punishments to the crimes committed:

"The idiot who, in railway carriages
Scribbles on window-panes
We only suffer
To ride on a buffer
On Parliamentary trains."

Modern usage

Legacy of the Beeching closures

In 1963 the nationalised British Railways produced a report, The Reshaping of British Railways,[4] designed to stem the huge losses made by the railway industry. The Chairman of British Railways was Dr Richard Beeching, and the report became known as the Beeching Report. It proposed very substantial cuts to the network and to train services. The Transport Act 1962 included a formal closure process allowing for objections to closures on the basis of hardship to passengers if their service was closed. As the objections gained momentum, this process became increasingly difficult to implement, and from about 1970 closures slowed to a trickle.

In certain cases where there was exceptionally low usage the train service was reduced to a bare minimum, but the service was not formally closed, avoiding the costs associated with closure. In some cases the service was reduced to one train a week, and in one case (The 11.36 from Paddington to West Rusilip) it remains in one direction only.[5]

These minimal services had resonances of the 19th-century parliamentary services, and among rail enthusiasts they came to be referred to as "parliamentary trains", or more colloquially "parly" trains (following the abbreviation used in Victorian timetables) or "ghost trains". However, this terminology is not used officially.

So-called Parliamentary services are also typically run at inconvenient times, often very early in the morning, very late at night or in the middle of the day at the weekend.[6]

Speller Act

When the closures brought about by the Beeching Report had reached equilibrium it was recognised that some incremental services or station reopenings were desirable. However, if a service was started and proved unsuccessful, it could not be closed again without going through the formal process, with the possibility that it might not be terminated. It was recognised that this discouraged possible desirable developments, and the Transport Act 1962 (Amendment) Act 1981 permitted the immediate closure of such experimental reopenings. The Bill that led to the Act of 1981 was sponsored by a pro-railways Member of Parliament, Antony Speller, and it is usually referred to as the Speller Act. The process is still in effect, although the legislation has been subsumed into other enactments.

Examples of extant "parliamentary" trains

Only one train in each direction calls at Pilning each week.

Some modern examples of lines served only by a "Parliamentary" train are:

A station may have a "parliamentary" service because the operating company wishes it closed, but the line is in regular use (most trains pass straight through). Examples include:

  • Teesside Airport, which serves Durham Tees Valley Airport in Country Durham, lost most of its services due to its relatively long distance to the terminal as well as competition from buses which offered more reliable services (which in turn were withdrawn due to the airport's sharp decrease in air passengers). The current service is operated only on Sundays and comprises the 1029 from Darlington-Metrocentre via Hartlepool with a return at 1219. Operated by Northern Rail.[9]
  • Pilning in South Gloucestershire, near Bristol – only one train in either direction stops each week. These are on Saturdays only at 0832 (0800 Cardiff Central–Bristol Temple Meads) and at 1541 (1521 Bristol Temple Meads–Cardiff Central). Operated by Great Western Railway.[10]
  • Barry Links and Golf Street in Carnoustie, Scotland. These are served by the 1703 Glasgow Queen Street–Carnoustie service (1711 Saturday) and the 0600 Carnoustie–Dundee return. Operated by First ScotRail.
  • Shippea Hill in Cambridgeshire and Lakenheath in Suffolk (between Ely and Brandon on the Breckland Line to Norwich). Shippea Hill is served at 0723 Mondays–Fridays (0725 Saturday) Eastbound and 0927 Saturdays only westbound. Lakenheath, however, is served by 7 trains on a Sunday. There are no services Monday–Friday and just a single journey in each direction on Saturdays.
  • Polesworth has one train per day Mondays–Saturdays, northbound only at 0723. After major works on the West Coast Main Line, contractors neglected to replace the footbridge which they had removed, leaving passengers unable to access southbound trains.

One train every Saturday is scheduled to call at Bordesley; however, the station remains open for use when Birmingham City Football Club are playing at home.

In the mid-1990s British Rail was forced to serve Smethwick West in the West Midlands for an extra 12 months after a legal blunder meant that the station had not been closed properly. One train per week each way still called at Smethwick West, even though it was only a few hundred yards from the replacement Smethwick Galton Bridge.[11]

A variant of the "parliamentary" train service was the "permanent" replacement bus service, as employed between Watford and Croxley Green in Hertfordshire. The railway line was closed to trains in 1996, but to avoid the legal complications and costs of actual closure train services were replaced by buses, thus maintaining the legal fiction of an open railway.[12] The branch was officially closed in 2001. In 2013 work began to absorb most of the route into a diversion of the Watford branch of the Metropolitan line into Watford Junction.

The "permanent replacement bus" tactic was used from December 2008 between Ealing Broadway and Wandsworth Road[13] when CrossCountry withdrew its services from Brighton to the Northwest, which was the only passenger service between Factory Junction, north of Wandsworth Road, and Latchmere Junction, on the West London Line. This service was later replaced by a single daily return train between Kensington Olympia and Wandsworth Road operated by Southern until formal consultation commenced and closure was completed in 2013. [14]

The "permanent replacement bus" tactic is being used to cover Norton Bridge, Barlaston and Wedgwood stations, which had their passenger services withdrawn in 2004.

There are regular Walsall to Wolverhampton services, but these run via Birmingham New Street rather than over the direct line.
‡There are, however, more services in the opposite direction: Stanford-le-Hope at 0429 to London Liverpool Street; Grays at 1948, 2046, and 2333 to London Liverpool Street; and Barking at 2051 to London Liverpool Street.

See also


  1. ^ """On Board a Real-Life "Ghost Train. BBC News. 1 July 2012. Retrieved December 9, 2012. 
  2. ^ D.N. Smith (1988) The Railway and Its Passengers: A Social History, Newton Abbott: David & Charles
  3. ^ MacDermott, E.T., History of the Great Western Railway, London: Great Western Railway, 1927, Vol. 1, part 2, page 640
  4. ^ "The Reshaping of British Railways" (PDF).  
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c Webster, Ben (7 January 2009). "Clean, on Time and Empty. "Ghost Bus" to Spare Ministers' Blushes".  
  7. ^ Rural Railways – Fifth Report of the Session 2004–05 (PDF),  
  8. ^ Williams, Michael (19 December 2011). "The hunt for Britain's ghost trains". The Independent (London). 
  9. ^ "'"Rail buffs to highlight Teesside Airport 'ghost station.  
  10. ^ "All aboard for the ghost train".  
  11. ^ "Smethwick West Station 1867–1996". Retrieved 16 September 2009. 
  12. ^ Davis, Joanne (17 August 2001). "Boost For Rail Link Proposal".  
  13. ^ Hamilton, Fiona. The Times (London) 
  14. ^ "Consultation: Withdrawal of scheduled passenger services between Wandsworth Road, Kensington (Olympia) and Ealing Broadway".  
  • Billson, P. (1996). Derby and the Midland Railway. Derby: Breedon Books.
  • Jordana, Jacint; Levi-Faur, David (2004). The politics of regulation: institutions and regulatory reforms for the age of governance. Edward Elgar Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84376-464-9.
  • Ransom, P. J. G. (1990). The Victorian Railway and How It Evolved. London: Heinemann.
  • BBC News [2]

External links

  • Railways Archive: An Act to attach certain Conditions to the Construction of future Railways 1844
  • Passenger Train Services Over Unusual Lines
  • Unusual Routes in Timetable,
  • London Underground Obscure Workings
  • On board a real life ghost train
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.