Acklington is one of 3 stations on the Northumberland stretch of the East Coast Main Line (ECML) that only have 3 trains per day. About 2 years ago, I visited Chathill (the terminus of the services), but Acklington is the least used station, both in Northumberland and on the entire ECML. It was one of the few minor stations on the ECML to survive both pre-Beeching and Beeching cuts. However, its service was cut substantially, due to electrification and associated faster InterCity services, and rolling stock shortages.
Although two return trains run (one in the morning, one in the evening), the northbound morning service does not stop at Acklington. Thus, the only way I could visit it by train was using the northbound evening service, and then picking up the southbound evening service on the way back. This suited me well; although I am prepared to wake up very early for the railways, I generally like a lie in. I didn't lie in all the way to my 4pm train because I'm not a hibernating brown bear. I'm also not an awake brown bear, or a brown bear of any sort. Just in case you were confused.
With tickets that were not valid via Newcastle, I had to get off at Morpeth. With apologies to all for bringing up politics, this was the notice that greeted me on the ticket machine at the station.
Sharpie written political commentary aside (those last two words used in their loosest possible sense), I had a train to catch. I switched platforms and sat for an hour on a bench, occasionally managing to get semi-competent pictures of the passing trains.
I continue to be amused at the fairly awful pronunciation of places by computers. This time, it was Alnmouth's turn to be called “Olma” for no reason. I have heard many variations (Alan-mouth, Alnn-mouth, An-muff etc.) but never “Olma”. (For those interested, I think the way to pronounce “Alnmouth” is “Alnn-muth” - no “Alan” and not emphasising the “mouth”.)
Linguistics (if this even counts) aside, my train arrived late and managed to regurgitate the entire population of Newcastle from its 2 coaches. I got on, had my ticket checked by the conductor, and observed passengers getting off at the other 2 stations that see such a limited service (Pegswood and Widdrington). A handful of passengers got off at each. I was surprised that 2 other people got off with me at Acklington. They left the station quickly, and I stayed to have a look round.
As would be expected, the facilities are fairly basic. There are all the normal signs and lights and a bin. The stationhouse on the northbound platform is now somebody's home, and there is a shelter on the southbound platform which is the same as the one that was at Chathill: small, wooden, and rather sweet.
The top third of the northbound platform is pointless because the yellow line is so far back that it makes actually walking on it nigh on impossible.
It's also fun to play a game of “spot the way out” on the southbound side. I don't think the signs give too much away.
The way from one platform to another is via the road bridge. This is actually a fair distance because the entrance to the northbound side is at the other end of the platform. There's about 200m of walking to get from one platform to the other, 150m of it on road. The village is located half a kilometre to the east. I didn't visit it.
With the pictures and exploration finished, I spent the remaining 20 minutes in the shelter, popping my head out when trains passed. Like the top third of the northbound platform, the yellow line comes so close to the shelter that walking along the platform behind it becomes difficult. Like a tightrope, but with unenforced gravity.
My train back to Morpeth arrived. It was the same one as before.
The conductor checked my ticket, but queried my route (I don't think they were aware where Haymarket was). Once I explained, they ticked the ticket off with their pen and went back to their other duties. Nobody else got on or off at Widdrington or Pegswood on the way back.
Morpeth arrived and I changed. I didn't have too much of a wait before my train back north to Edinburgh. When I got on, quite a few got off, and I had an entire carriage to myself. Or, I thought I did. A rather imposing walking cane accompanied me. I reported it to the train manager when she came around, and she took it to her office.
The rest of the journey did not involve any other walking sticks.
Acklington station was never going to be used well, but its patronage will still be throttled somewhat by the infrequent service and the odd destination in the north. Few people will want to go to Chathill, and even though one can change at Alnmouth, the connections to Berwick aren't great from there. One of the major gripes of railway users in Northumberland is that, although there are quite a few trains from Newcastle to Edinburgh, most of them only stop at one or two stations between the two cities. Thus, there is a very infrequent service between the various stations in Northumberland. There is no train from Alnmouth to Berwick-upon-Tweed from 10am to 4pm; no train from Morpeth to Alnmouth for over 6 hours (06:38 to 12:57); and no train from Morpeth to Berwick for nearly 7 hours (11:51 to 18:49). If Northern could use electric rolling stock capable of 100mph, then there could well be space in the timetable for an hourly or bi-hourly local service from Newcastle to Berwick-upon-Tweed calling at all the stations en-route. Some enhancements are planned, but they are still only in the planning stage and could well be pulled/deferred.
The Cardiff Valley Lines are a number of railway lines which run from Cardiff up the Welsh Valleys around the city. Given the commuter status of the lines, and the continued need for additional capacity due to the large demand for the railway, it is surprising that a least used station would be found. Gilfach Fargoed sits just south of Bargoed on the Rhymney Line. It was used by just over 5000 people in the past year, a figure which is very high for the station (usually it manages around 3,500 people per year). So, although not in the least used stations list proper, it does have a patronage significantly lower than other stations in the area. Thus, I decided it warranted a visit.
From Edinburgh, the journey is not a complicated one, but it is long. I already had cause to visit Cardiff, so I decided to go earlier than I needed to in order to visit Gilfach Fargoed.
The now normal alarm for a 06:52 train woke me up. I had quite a full rucksack to lug down to the station, but a much longer train journey where I didn't have to carry it. My first train was to Crewe. I do like travelling on the West Coast Main Line (WCML), but I generally don't like doing it too far south. There are some fantastic bits of scenery along the whole route, but the Lake District and Borders section from Edinburgh/Motherwell to Lancaster is the best. South of Lancaster, the fabulousness of the scenery is punctuated by some utter abominations of towns and cities.
Crewe, or to give it its full name, Change at Crewe, arrived. I changed, and boarded the next train to Cardiff, running via Shrewsbury and Hereford. Providing a 2 car train for a Manchester to Carmarthen service is a seriously bad idea. The combination of long-distance and local passenger flows lead to a crowded service. All the seats were taken and quite a few people had to stand. Not fun.
But, 3 and a half hours later, I was in Cardiff. It was late lunch and I had 30 minutes before my train to Gilfach departed. Gilfach has a regular hourly service. That may sound good for a least used station, but there are 4 trains per hour which run on the line in question.
A Pacer turned up to take me to Gilfach. The train wasn't very crowded, but then the real crowds join the train at rush hour. That's why Transport for Wales have felt the need to introduce class 37 loco-hauled sets of mark 2 coaches (for non-rail enthusiasts: 60s locomotives and slam-door coaches) to deal with the rush hour passengers. Anyway, the journey up the valley was a rather good one. I hadn't expected the Welsh Valleys to be so lovely (I apologise to the people of the Valleys for underestimating their local area). It was also quite a long slog up, given the frequent stopping and the 13 mile distance.
The train departed Pengam (the stop before Gilfach) and the conductor came down asking if anyone wanted to get off at Gilfach Fargoed. I was the only one. She asked me to come to the front set of doors because of the short platform. Not even a whole coach could fit on the platform. As I got off, I thanked her, watched the train depart, and then looked at the tiny station.
The platforms are 16 metres long. This is not long enough for the coaches of most trains (these tend to be 20 – 23 metres long). The facilities are fairly basic, as one can imagine. Both platforms has electronic departure boards with the comically awful automatic announcements that I am used to from Welsh stations. Yes, Ebbw Vale Parkway is pronounced “eee bee vee”, and one doesn't actually have to pronounce “Ystrad Mynach” at all. Just go up to a Welsh person, say nothing, and they'll immediately understand that you mean “Ystrad Mynach”. There are also the normal station signs, ramps up to the road bridge, and a shelter on each platform. These shelters look as if they have been set on fire numerous times.
Just over 30 minutes later, a train back to Cardiff arrived. I decided that I had seen everything I needed to, so I got on it.
Gilfach Fargoed is arguably one of the cutest little stations I have visited. If it was well-maintained with little wooden shelters and a couple of baskets of flowers, I'd properly love it. But it isn't, so I don't.
I'm not sure if there is a way to boost patronage for the station. Bargoed has quite a healthy patronage, so stopping 2 trains per hour may encourage people who live further south to use Gilfach rather than Bargoed. The length of the platforms poses some problems too. The loco-hauled commuter trains that I mentioned earlier can't stop at Gilfach Fargoed because of the short platforms. In fact, Gilfach Fargoed has a gap of 90 minutes between trains from Cardiff from 16:43 to 18:18 (16:01 to 17:31 from Cardiff). That does leave a gap at the start of the PM peak where the station gets no service. Although there are departures at 07:04 and 07:18 to Cardiff in the AM peak, there isn't a departure from 07:18 to 08:18, which leaves a gap of arrivals into Cardiff between 8am and 9am. A train from Gilfach arriving into Cardiff at about 08:30 would be very useful.
Other than the length of the platforms, quality of facilities and level of service, Gilfach Fargoed is a perfect station.
Yes, in December 2017 I visited both Barry Links and Golf Street in the dark, took some awful photos, and didn't actually get the train to or from Golf Street. Such was the quality of the blog nearly 2 years ago.
The Edinburgh to Aberdeen line has quite a collection of little stations, especially between Dundee and Carnoustie. Of the 5 stations between the 2, 3 have an annual patronage that regularly falls below 1000 per year, 2 often fall below 100. Until 2019 they were served by only 1 train per day each way, but this was doubled to two per day at the May timetable change. This makes it possible to visit all three of them. I chose the evening because I have no way to get up to Carnoustie for a 6am departure from Golf Street. The only problem is that the evening departures come 40 minutes apart, which is tight for a proper visit of a least used station (I tend to allow at least an hour per station as a rule). However, I'd already visited Barry Links properly, so I allowed myself to do it in the 40 minutes.
I used 7 tickets for the journey, which required a lot of patience with the fairly awful touch-screen ticket machines that exist at Haymarket station (and indeed most other stations in the UK). But, I completed the transaction with plenty of time to spare, and decided to board a delayed service which took me as far as Dundee. It was a very crowded LNER service from London, so my timeliness (and their lack of it) didn't pay off that much. Instead of hanging around at Haymarket, I hung around at Dundee station, the one which had its station piano smashed by some absolute planks. I stayed on platform 4 for my train to Monifieth.
Monifieth is another station that lies along the Edinburgh to Aberdeen line which has a low patronage (below 10,000 per year). This doesn't qualify it for the list proper, and it is not of sufficient interest for it to be covered as part of the blog (frequent readers may remember stations such as Chathill, Angel Road and other stations which have an annual patronage well above the 1000 per year limit have been covered due to limited service or other reasons of interest – see individual blog posts for justifications). Balmossie station is about 1 mile south of Monifieth. The walk between the two is a very pleasant one: a tarmac cycle and walkers route runs along the side of the Tay estuary.
Of the three, Balmossie is the most inconvenient to navigate. The platforms are staggered: the down platform (towards Carnoustie and Arbroath) is directly east of the footbridge, but the up platform (towards Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh) is further east along the line. One has to walk up a mud track after crossing the footbridge to get to it. Although the platforms are pretty much wooden skeletons, they have all the basic facilities: benches, signs, bins and electronic departure boards. The up platform even has a wooden shelter (the luxury).
I had about an hour at the station, which I used trying to take pictures of the outside of the station without too many locals questioning my sanity, and taking pictures of the trains which passed occasionally.
My train onwards to Barry Links was showing as on-time, but was held at Dundee for a late-running express to Aberdeen. That meant it arrived 15 minutes late. Nobody got off, but I got on (slightly obviously).
Barry Links Station
7 minutes and 1 intermediate stop (Monifieth – remember that one?) later, I was deposited on the Barry Links platform along with 2 other people. The train departed, and the level crossing barriers remained down for another 5 minutes as other trains passed through. Some of the cyclists waiting at the barriers were getting quite irate by the end of it, something which I had no sympathy for as they could have used the bridge. They didn't and must have lost about 10 minutes.
Slight idiots aside, Barry Links station has 2 normal platforms, none of that skeletal stuff that Balmossie and (spoiler alert) Golf Street have. Its shelter is also an upgrade on Balmossie's: some metal and see-through plastic affair on both platforms. That must mean Barry Links has a higher patronage. But, it doesn't. Barry Links has been the least used station in Scotland for years (alternating with Breich) and has at times been the least used in the whole of the UK (it was for 2018). The signs, bins and electronic departure boards exist as expected. Except they don't. Someone has managed to get the departure boards the wrong way round, so my train onwards to Golf Street was advertised on the wrong platform. Top marks to Transport Scotland.
The 40 minute wait had been eaten down to 25 minutes with the delay, but increased to over 30 because the Edinburgh to Arbroath service that I was to catch to Golf Street was 6 minutes late. That meant I saw a few trains passing through.
Slightly too soon, my train to Golf Street arrived and I boarded (but only after taking a quick snap).
Golf Street Station
2 minutes down the line, the train arrived at Golf Street. Only the very front door was to open. Again, 2 people got out as well as me. They left, and I surveyed the station.
The station has very short platforms. They can just about fit 2 coaches on, so most trains have to use selective door opening (SDO). The platforms are skeletal (as alluded to earlier), with the same facilities. There is only one shelter: situated on the down platform. This seems very silly to me: more people are going to be waiting for trains at Golf Street to go to Dundee and further south/west rather than to go the 1 or 2 stops north to Carnoustie (1000 yards further along the line) or Arbroath.
I spent just over an hour taking pictures and doing some 'proper' trainspotting. During that time, the friendly Carnoustie locals had things to say about my existence. Well, 2 people (and I don't know if they were all locals). The first pair were in a car, and, once they saw me, said “it's not an actual station” as they drove off. I know this to be false for a number of reasons:
I may not be an expert in many things (or anything really), especially definitions and spellings of words (just check all the typso that I've made in the previous posts), but I'm pretty confident that I can identify railway stations.
The second was a man. He came out of a house I assume that he had a right to be in to make sure that I didn't think that I was at Carnoustie station. I thanked him and said I was just taking pictures of trains. Apparently a lot of people are idiots, because they think that the 8 signs that all have “Golf Street / Sràid a' Ghoilf” printed on them, they actually have “Carnoustie / Càrn Ùstaidh” printed, when this is clearly not the case. (Exceptions made if the person is blind/partially sighted, perhaps obviously.)
After a short intermodal service had passed through, I decided it was time to walk to Carnoustie station (the actual one) to catch my train home. This happened.
All three stations are hardly rural or remote. Therefore, their patronage could increase significantly if they got a reasonable level of service. An argument could be made that some are too close to other, more established stations. However I would only make that argument for Golf Street. Barry Links could have a more reasonable patronage (not that high, but not stupidly low) if it had a more regular service. Ditto with Balmossie. Perhaps my previous suggestion of introducing a shuttle between Golf Street and Barry Links (the stations being at either end of Carnoustie Golf Links) to transport the rich golfing lard-tubs about the links, could work. (It couldn't.)
Frequently Asked Questions
My typo on the word “typso” was deliberate. Don't write in.
Like many other long, rural railway routes, the Cambrian Coast Line has numerous small stations which serve little hamlets that wouldn't otherwise get a railway service. Most of these are request stops. Tonfanau itself is 5-10 minutes north of Twywn (by rail). Although it used to serve a military training and refugee camp, this no longer exists. Only a few houses and multiple abandoned and derelict buildings exist now. In fact, British Rail (BR) attempted to close the station in the mid 1990s because it didn't serve anything anymore. This request was declined.
Given the above, you would be forgiven for thinking the annual patronage for Tonfanau fell under 1000 passengers per year. However, it doesn't. It was used by over 3000 people last year, one of the highest figures in this series. I can only estimate the reasons for this, but it may have something to do with the 4 annual Tonfanau Road Races which take place near the station (hence the name).
Being based in Scotland means getting to any part of Wales takes a long time. The previous day, although brilliant, had resulted in a very late night, so I got barely any sleep before I had to be up for the 06:52 service from Edinburgh. This took me as far south as Warrington, the jewel of Cheshire. There, I changed onto one of the “new” services operated by Northern: the Leeds to Chester service. I took this to Chester, where I made my second change of the day to my service all the way to Shrewsbury. Both these changes were quite tight (>10 minutes).
At Shrewsbury, my 14 minute change became twice as long because the service from Birmingham that I would take to Tonfanau was just over quarter of an hour late. This turned out not to matter, because there was sufficient allowances in the timetable to mean that, by the time it departed Tywyn, it was only 2 minutes behind schedule. But, at Shrewsbury, Tywyn was still 2 hours away and I had the single track Cambrian Coast Line to admire. Although pleasant, the views only really get going after Dovey Junction, where the line to Aberystwyth splits off south, and the line to Pwllheli works north. Tonfanau is on the Pwllheli branch, and I was on the Pwllheli part of the train (services divide at Machynlleth with one part going to Aberystwyth and the other to Pwllheli). The line between Dovey Junction and Aberdovey hugs the cliffs round Dovey Estuary (that may not be the official name of the area, but it works as a description), just above the water. This produces some excellent views.
Aberdovey came and went, as did Tywyn shortly afterwards. Tonfanau is only a few minutes north of Twywn, so I prepared myself for getting off the train. I made sure that the train was stopping at Tonfanau (it is a request stop), and stood by the door for the remainder of the journey.
Having watched the train depart, I had to put on my coat because the rain had just started to fall. This is typical of British weather: Indoors for half the day then the moment when one leaves shelter, the rain starts.
Although Tonfanau station is remote, a new build house has been built directly next to the platform. There were also a number of cars parked up by the level crossing, so the place felt quite crowded. I decided to walk to the beach and derelict military buildings first.
The Surrounding Area
The derelict military buildings are visible from the station. There are a small number of them standing, with numerous other patches of concrete which signify where other buildings or installations once were. One of the sets of buildings had a caravan parked right next to it, a caravan which contained more people.
Further on is the beach and mouth of the River Dysynni. I thought here, at least, I would be able to enjoy the wind-and-rain-swept delights of the Cambrian Coast alone. But, as has become the theme of today, a single human in a black kagoule was also on said beach. I had a short wander down to the sea, enjoying the fact that my shoes were (and still are) waterproof, before going back to the station.
Back to the Station
After my antics (and I use that word in its loosest possible form), I had an hour to look at the station before my train that would take me back ultimately to Edinburgh arrived.
Tonfanau has the normal facilities that I have come to expect. There are a number of signs, a basic shelter, a bench, a salt bin (but no litter bin), a bike rack (one hoop only), a BT payphone, a digital information screen and an automatic announcement system. The automatic announcement system was fairly awful, in that it couldn't pronounce the word 'operated' properly, instead going for “approted”. You can imagine how awful the pronunciation of the more complicated Welsh place names were.
I left the platform for a bit to get some pictures from the other side of the track. As I did this, more people arrived. They went onto the station platform. Another person also arrived in a truck. All the people (so many people) were now on the platform. However, only the couple were hand-in-hand. If you get that reference, you win the prize of slightly understanding my weird brain.
I went back onto the platform, and was asked by the man if one could buy tickets on the train. I told him that he could. I continued to wander up and down the platform for the remaining time until the 15:16 service arrived. As it rounded the corner, the driver gave a toot. I spun round and stuck my arm out to flag it down. The driver responded with another blow of the horn, and I put my appendage away so as not to annoy him.
The Journey Home
The train did stop, and the couple and I got on. My ticket was checked and I settled down for the ride back to Shrewsbury. There were long waits at Machynlleth (timetabled) and at Talerddig (not timetabled – we were waiting for a delayed eastbound train). We arrived at Shrewsbury 10 minutes late.
In the 6 hours between visits to Shrewsbury a points failure had occurred near Chester. A lot of trains were quite late, but my service to Manchester was mostly unaffected. It was only 7 minutes late. An almost perfect run to Manchester was brought to a stuttering halt outside Cheadle Hulme. We were stuck behind a train which was having some problems with its doors for a few minutes, causing the delay to run up to quarter of an hour by the time I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly. Getting stuck behind delayed services turned out to be a theme of my return journey.
With an hour to wait for my train to Edinburgh, I decided to leave Manchester Piccadilly station and walk to a take away to get myself an overpriced burger and chips.
I consumed most of the food back at Piccadilly, watching a fare dodger vault the barriers and run away from staff. The British Transport Police officer looked on and said “I'm not running after that” to the staff when they shouted for help. The tracksuit-based fare-dodging clot got away. I hope he face-planted into the escalator.
Re-focusing on my burger, I finished it before my train to Edinburgh arrived on platform 14. I boarded it and settled down in my reserved seat for the 3 hour journey. I spent the journey tracking trains, listening to podcasts and watching the light fade outside until there was a dark nothingness, much like Alexander “Boris” Johnson's conscience.
This dark nothingness turned out to be a field near Lockerbie, a field which I got rather too acquainted with over the next 70 minutes. The train ahead was experiencing the Great British Tradition of a drunken Wednesday night fight. This meant the police and ambulance service had to be called, statements taken from passengers, and associated administration and problems. That train was 90 minutes late getting going, and we finally moved 70 minutes behind schedule.
The train skipped Haymarket station where I had hoped to get off because it was so late that Haymarket had shut down for the night. Instead I was deposited at Waverley at quarter to one in the morning. I boarded a night bus (which cost £3 – great price Lothian Buses(!)) and got home at gone 1:30am.
I may not have mentioned this before, but there were too many people at Tonfanau. I like going to least used stations (partly) for the solitude, something that didn't exist when I was there. For a station that looked so remote on a map, it felt overcrowded when I got there. Worth the 18 hour round trip though.
Whitley Bridge is one of 4 stations on the Pontefract line which only receives 3 trains per day (not Sundays). It is the 2nd busiest of those 4, with a grand total of 1,236 passengers last year. This is the highest it has been for years. Whitley Bridge itself is in the village of Eggborough about 1 mile walk from the village of Whitley. There is a bridge nearby. Hence the name Whitley Bridge (I think). The Knottingley to Goole section of line has not always had such a limited service, although it has generally been more infrequent than the rest of the Pontefract Line. Timetables from the '70s and '80s see 5 or 6 trains per day in each direction, and not clumped together either. This gradually reduced down to the current 3 trains per day (in total) by the mid 2000s.
Whitley Bridge has 2 trains just over an hour apart in the evenings. This sounds perfect for boarding/alighting. Sadly, the 2nd of these services is just too late to enable me to get back to London, so I had to get a bus to Eggborough (which is the village where Whitley Bridge actually is) and get the first train of the evening back.
I arrived at Kings Cross station for my train to Leeds. It was one of LNER's new InterCity Express Trains (marketed as the “Azuma” by the ever-successful Virgin Trains East Coast). Although quite busy, there was enough room for people not to sit next to me. I consumed food and drink to prevent death, and arrived at Leeds station on time. I had a half hour change for my train to Selby, which I spent hanging around on platform 12 observing the coming and goings from the very busy station. It was busier today because there had been an electrical failure somewhere on the Airedale which meant that no electric train could leave Leeds bound for Bradford, Skipton or Ilkley. That is a significant portion of the Leeds commuter network, and so there were a large number of miffed commuters and other travellers standing around the departure boards looking with annoyance(?) at the word “delayed” next to their train.
My train to Selby wasn't delayed. It rocked up on time, and the entire population of Yorkshire attempted to cram onto the three carriages provided. This didn't work. I managed to get a seat for the 25 minute journey, but many others did not.
Selby station started to exist outside the train, so I got off, pausing only to give someone their keys back, which they had kindly left on the table. The Selby to Whitley Bridge section of travel was to be done by bus. Brum-brum. Except it was more of a purr because the bus had a hybrid engine. Whatever noise the bus made, it moved, and I arrived at Whitley Bridge at the time I expected to.
Although being poorly used, Whitley Bridge is certainly not situated in the middle of nowhere. On the south side there are a large number of warehouses. There seemed to be an endless stream of lorries to and from them. To the north is the village of Eggborough, so there are houses. The road by the station is also well-used. Thus, I didn't get the normal solitude of a least used station, which I found disappointing.
The station is a normal 2 platform one. Both platforms have a shelter, various notices a bin and a salt bin. The salt-bin to service ratio is a very high one.
Although the line has a very infrequent passenger service, there is a good deal of freight. In the one hour I was at Whitley Bridge, I saw three freight services. They were mostly operating trains to/from Drax Power Station.
Back to London
Quite a long train arrived to take me to take me to Goole. By “long” I mean three coaches.
I was one of two people in the front carriage. My route from Whitley Bridge to London involved two changes: at Goole and at Doncaster. This isn't the most direct route, but the only one possible given the lack of trains from Whitley Bridge. My train from Doncaster to London was very uncrowded, but somehow someone had managed to sit in my reserved seat. I decided to ask him to move, which he did: first to the opposite side of the carriage, and then he walked off. I was pleased that he did because he was bleating down his phone.
Whitley Bridge falls perfectly into the category of least used stations which could have a much higher patronage if there was a railway service to speak of. Although there is a train for commuters into and out of Leeds at peak times, there are no trains at any other points. Clearly, a station with only 3 trains per day is never going to have a very high patronage, because there are other transport options which are more frequent, as my bus journey demonstrates. Really, Whitley Bridge should have 1 train every other hour. However, this is unlikely to happen in the short or medium term. The reason for the service reduction is because Northern doesn't have enough rolling stock. Although Northern is getting new rolling stock, they are scrapping their Pacers and any additional rolling stock will be used on already overcrowded routes. The Knottingley to Goole part of the Ponefract Line is very low down on the list of rolling stock priorities for Northern.
Author - Felix