This is the cliché pointless ghost station. It holds a legendary status amongst these least used stations that no other station (other than possibly Shippea Hill or Berney Arms) can hold. It is famous for having a patronage of only 8 people per year from April 2012 to April 2014. It has featured in various television and radio programmes about ghost stations and parliamentary routes. This is also one of a very few stations to be served only by a proper parliamentary service (1 train per week in one direction only). Most other stations in this series are served by a “token service” but not a full parliamentary. It used to be served by 1 train per week in each direction, but the up service towards Middlesbrough was withdrawn in the December 2017 timetable change because of the lack of desire to spend money to replace a rotting and rusting footbridge.
The most recent statistics show the annual patronage at 30, putting this station at number 2, just after Barry Links (at 24). This is a fairly standard annual usage for the station. A recent spike brought the passenger numbers to 98, but this was mainly due to a mass travel to the station to gain publicity and request that it be moved to a proper location, rather than in the middle of nowhere, accessible only via a private airport road.
The 4th of March was the first day in March where trains had run north of Newcastle up the East Coast Main Line into Scotland, due to high winds and snow brought on by the storm's cold air. Because of this, temporary speed restrictions still existed, so, despite leaving on a train half an hour earlier than the one I had planned to get from Edinburgh, I still missed my connection at Darlington. The train was very crowded.
The parliamentary runs from Hartlepool to Darlington. I decided that I would pick it up at Teesside Airport, meaning that I would need to walk from a nearby station. I chose Dinsdale. This way, I can walk via the airport and see what the walk from airport to station was like.
Having spent my time freezing on Darlington platform and wondering why people can't take the phrase “stand back please”, arms waving and whistle blowing from platform dispatchers to mean “stand back from the train”, the service to Dinsdale arrived. I settled down for the 5 minute journey, enjoying the fun steam loco ticket stamp given by the guard (beats a random scribble from a biro). I was the only person to get off at Dinsdale.
I then enjoyed the walk through the snow along various minor roads to Durham Tees Valley. The car park had a few cars in it. Otherwise, nobody and nothing (apart from snow and one bloke in a high-visibility jacket) was there.
Having re-plotted my route from the Airport to the station due to the route I wanted to take being signed as private and only for airport staff and vehicles, I went to the main A road via some back streets in order to gain access to the station that way. This walk, from an airport to the station, is much more rural and desolate than is normal, as one can tell from the pictures below.
This is the approach to the station from the A-road. Top Tip: DON'T!
There is no entrance on the A-road. I found this out to my peril. The way I gained access was by climbing over the fence next to the station, before clambering over the fences on the platform that protect people on them from falling onto the road. I did this by the footbridge where I could get a foothold. Not something I wish to repeat again.
Once on the platform, I admired the station. It looks as if it is unmaintained. The footbridge is being held up by scaffolding, with signs in big red writing telling people to spend as little time as possible on it. I had pictures to collect, so I did spend a few seconds at various points on the footbridge taking pictures. It didn't collapse.
It also appears we are back to the signage failures that have been a feature of this series. This time, a sign tells people to stay on platform 1 for services to Darlington, or go over the footbridge for services to Middlesbrough and Saltburn. Quite right. For those 0 services a week that stop here on their way east. Try flagging a train down on that platform and you'll get laughed at. Or a blow of the horn to tell you to stop being an idiot and stand back.
Another failure or “WHAT!?” moment is the station shelter. While it is a perfectly reasonable, if simple structure, it is located on the platform that sees no trains. This is rather like the shelter on Golf Street station (if anybody remembers/has read the post on that).
About 90 minutes after I arrived, it was the time for the 14:56 departure, the only one of the week, to take me back to Darlington and onwards to Edinburgh.
As the train approached, I gave the driver a wave, a: to seem friendly and, b: to make sure he was stopping. The station isn't a request stop (not as far as I know anyway), but I decided to make sure. The train did stop, and I got on. As I walked to my seat, I saw two people looking out of the window in confusion at the station, while another person muttered something about it to their friend. The conductor came to see me, checked my ticket, and then went back to her compartment in the back. She didn't say anything about me having been nutty enough to use it, but that's half the fun. Part of the interest of going to these places is what the guard will say. I got more of a comment about getting off at Dinsdale “Oh, lucky for some!” than I did about getting on at Teesside Airport. Then again, it's down to how much the guard wants to speak to people.
I got off at Darlington. Because of the price of the advance tickets, I had a 90 minute wait for my service back north. I took advantage of the ticket esements due to the weather and got on the first train that arrived, settling down to enjoy the Inter City 225 set. Much better than a Voyager. (I don't dislike Voyagers, but given the choice, I will take an IC225.) I arrived at Edinburgh much earlier than I had imagined, giving me time to get myself a pie and chips before going home.
Teesside Airport is that ghost station that most people know about. Whereas other stations enjoy a couple of minutes of fame (like Barry Links did when the figures were announced) but stay mostly untouched by the majority, this one has kept in the public eye for a good while. The location both in terms of distance from the actual airport (not the runways, but the terminal buildings) and also the way one has to gain access to it means that most people just don't bother. Those who do are met with the problems of no signage and blank or amused faces when trying to enquire about how one actually gets to it. Or no faces at all if the airport is closed as happened with me. With the rumble of the main road on one side, and aeroplanes on the other, it could be a very loud location; certainly not the sort of thing associated with a least used station. It's also a station that is used only by people like me. There is literally no other reason to actually visit it. Stations like Barry Links or Scotscalder have people who use the train because they need to get to or from home, but this station is so useless, only those who want to visit it for the sake of visiting it arrive. This is the reason why the patronage fluctuates so much.
The final thing to point out is how mad this whole thing is. A station built to serve an airport should be used by thousands if not millions of people per year. But, the station is in a stupid location, and the airport's traffic and patronage is declining. Only about 130,000 people used it in the most recent annual period, down from nearly 1 million a few years ago. Most of these are charter flights. This station is a double victim of location: it is far away from the thing it was built to serve, and the thing it was built to serve is crashing. Could it receive a better patronage if it was moved and service levels increased? Possibly. But, the airport itself isn't doing that well, so there wouldn't be a particularly strong case to put to Network Rail for them to invest the millions of pounds required.
Soon, the eastbound platform will be demolished, leaving only the westbound platform in-situ. This is because of the footbridge rotting and rusting. If Network Rail can't be bothered to replace a footbridge, one can pretty much guarantee that this station will remain the pointless ghost thing it is, failed by everyone, until it rots out of existence in 10 or so years time.
Author - Felix