Yes, with 40 passengers using it in the last annual period, British Steel Redcar/Redcar British Steel (the two names appear to be used interchangeably) is the least used station in Britain. This is not surprising. It was built to serve the huge Teesside Steelworks in 1978, which has been closed at various periods in recent history (not surprisingly given the challenges of the British steel industry). It first closed in 2010, re-opened in 2012, and then partially closed again in 2015. Even when the plant was open, the station wasn't used very much. Between 2004 and the present day the highest recorded annual patronage was 1570 in the 2014/15 period. Although it is nearby the western parts of Redcar, the station itself is located inside the private property of the steelworks, thus meaning that it cannot be used by anyone, save for the now non-existent employees. The station itself is Network Rail property which means that anybody with a valid ticket can get off at the station, but they cannot leave the station area. The timetable is such that it is possible to alight from one train, spend about an hour on the station, and then get the next one. Departures are at 07:57, 08:24, 16:58 and 18:17 every day except for a Sunday where there is no service at all. Thus, visiting the station without breaking any rules is possible.
I aimed to alight from the 16:58 service, and board the 18:17 from British Steel. However, they are slightly inconvenient as the 16:58 comes from the east, and the 18:17 goes back east, which means that I, as a traveller from Edinburgh, needed to double back on both the outward and return journeys. I chose Marske as the location to double back on the outbound journey, and Redcar Central on the return. I had booked far enough in advance for first class on the Edinburgh to Darlington part to be worth it. Having travelled up from London on LNER first class the day before, I had practically survived off their over-mayonaised sandwiches for two days. The advantage was that I had built up quite a collection of biscuits and muffins.
The train arrived in Darlington 10 minutes late, giving me 2 minutes to make my connection. However, my connection was 13 minutes late. And then 24 minutes late. 32 minutes late, the little train appeared. I boarded, along with a large number of others, and we departed. Because of the delay, the train had been cancelled beyond Redcar Central, meaning that I couldn't continue onto Marske. But, my main aim was to get to British Steel Redcar. I spoke to the guard about options, and she said that, on the way back from Redcar Central, she was the 16:58 service from British Steel Redcar. She also made sure that I knew I couldn't leave the station because the station was situated in private property.
“How do you envisage leaving the station?”
“There's a train at 18:17 that'll take me back.”
“That's OK. I just need to make sure that you know that you can't leave the station.”
At Redcar Central, the train reversed. However, the automatic departure boards at the station had not told passengers about the platform alteration. This meant that the guard and driver had to shout down most of Redcar in order to get people onto the train. Several people had problems with getting their pushchairs over the footbridge, whilst one passenger was in a wheelchair. It took 15 minutes for everyone to get on to the train. I felt that the guard and driver had rather been “hung-out-to-dry” by the management and technology.
After we departed from Redcar Central, it was only a 3 minute trip back down the line to British Steel Redcar. I got off, and thanked the guard. She had been very helpful during the delays and complications. I watched the train depart before I looked at the station.
(Redcar) British Steel (Redcar) Station
The station is a very barren 70s affair. There is a footbridge, two waiting shelters (one per platform), a large number of station signs, and a single chair for the entire station. There are no help points (although the National Rail website says there are) and no bins.
Just outside the station grounds there are signs which tell people in no uncertain terms that the land by the station is private.
The station looks rather like it has just been plonked in the middle of a wasteland. It does not have any paths linking to the roads; instead there are some mud tracks and a bricked up tunnel which was probably a path to somewhere at some point. The old steelworks as well as numerous other abandoned buildings are visible from the station. I would have liked to explore them, but both time and rules did not permit this.
The delays to the services through the station continued. Trains were passing me with delays between 5 and 15 minutes. My 18:17 service back to Redcar Central was 9 minutes late, a delay which took all 9 minutes off my connection time at Redcar Central. I was due to arrive at 18:21, switch platforms, and board the 18:30 back to Darlington. At 18:25, the train swung round into view. Although British Steel Redcar is not a request stop, there have been recent incidents where trains have not stopped. I held my hand out for a number of seconds, putting it away when I realised that the train was slowing enough to stop. I boarded, spoke to the guard about what I was doing and where I was going, and readied myself for the tight connection at Redcar Central.
The Journey Back
Arriving at 18:29, I scampered across the footbridge to the opposite platform just as the 18:30 rolled in. I boarded and blocked out the sound of some very large, shouting people. They all got off at Middlesbrough.
I changed at Darlington without incident and continued onwards to Edinburgh, where I went home.
As I remarked at the start, it is hardly surprising that this station has such a low patronage. Since the steelworks closed, there is no reason (or indeed means) to visit, save for the enthusiast “I've-been-to-the-station” one. Some rail enthusiasts do visit the station and then leave the site without getting picked up by security, whilst others have reported being escorted out by security even though they were inside Network Rail property and waiting between trains.
I'm also not sure why Northern added two additional trains. Prior to the May 2018 timetable change, there were only two trains per day: one in the morning, and one in the evening. Given the situation about access that I had just described, that made it impossible to visit the station, unless one was an employee of the site, one broke the rules and gained access anyway, or waited for 10 hours between trains. The doubling of frequency for a declining station is an utter mystery to me, and to quite a few others.
Author - Felix