Springfield is another minor station located on an otherwise busy main line. This time, the line in question is the Edinburgh to Aberdeen line. It serves the village of Springfield, and not much else. Along with the small population, it also gets a very limited service. Only 5 trains per day stop (2 up, 3 down) for 6 days of the week. There is no Sunday service.
Along with the limited service, there is also no convenient gap between services. Both the evening services call at 6pm (northbound at 17:59, southbound at 18:00). The next one is the 23:21 service to Dundee. Luckily, there are 3 bus routes, which work to give 2 buses per hour to Ladybank (south) or Cupar and St Andrews (north). I decided to get the train out from Edinburgh to Springfield, then take a bus to Ladybank and take a train back to Edinburgh from there.
I don't often travel during rush hours because the trains are crowded and tickets (often) more expensive. However, with the university and railway timetables the way they are, I had to get a train just after 5pm to get to Springfield from Edinburgh. It was quite crowded, although not as rammed as I'm used to down in London. It thinned out quite a lot, and after Kirkcaldy I was able to spread slightly.
The train was on time, and I was the only person who got off at the station. There were quite a few people on the opposite platform waiting for the train back into Edinburgh. This was slightly late. I watched it depart before I surveyed the station.
The first thing that hit me was the absolute stench of manure. It was very overpowering, to the point where I had to bring up my polo neck and use it as a mask to protect my nose. The station itself is quite an odd one. It has the normal 2 platforms, linked with a footbridge. There are signs, departure boards, a smartcard reader, benches, a bin, and a shelter on one platform. The other platform has shelter provided by a canopy from the old station house. This is now a private house, the owner of which closed their curtains when I was walking around taking pictures of the station. I hope they knew why I was taking pictures, and didn't think I was some creepy old thing in a long coat.
The weirdness comes from the platform. For whatever reason, the up platform has a section that is much lower than the rest of it (the section that runs alongside the house). Therefore, trains can't stop at that bit; instead they have to run all the way to the other end. I'm not quite sure why the station was designed like that, but there we go. The platforms are therefore slightly staggered. Although they are roughly the same length, the ends do not map onto each other in the way that one expects.
Signs continue to be a problem. This time, they suggest that one can get direct trains to Aberdeen and the North. Trains only continue as far as Arbroath. There are no trains beyond there to Aberdeen.
It was getting very cold, and I had forgotten my gloves. Darkness was also drawing in. This is all normal for Scotland in October. Therefore, once I had taken all the pictures I needed, I escaped to a nearby bus stop, as I realised that there was one due within 5 minutes. I'd rather leave than hang around for another hour. I boarded the bus, paid the rather expensive fare (£3.60 for the single) and settled down for the short journey to Ladybank.
By rail, Springfield is 3 miles and 22 chains from Ladybank (there 80 chains in a mile). Because of the way the roads work, the shortest distance between the two is 5 miles by road. The bus route makes this distance even longer. I've mentioned before how mad bus routes can be (see my posts on Polesworth and Hopton Heath), and the route 94/94A also makes a healthy detour via Kettlebridge and Kingskettle (an additional 1.5 miles). Not the worst (another bus route, the 64 goes all the way to Letham, and increases the distance to 8.5 miles), but slightly anxiety inducing as I tracked our progress, only to see us “missing” the turning up to Ladybank.
Anyway, the bus reached Ladybank station, and I got off (along with another human being). I navigated my way over to the Edinburgh platform and boarded my train home, making sure I avoided the family with multiple children and even more suitcases who also wanted to get on.
Spingfield is one of those stations which I thought would be quite well used. I did not expect to be the only person to get off the rush hour train because I thought that the majority of the annual patronage would be commuters from Fife to Edinburgh and back. Perhaps the fact that the village gets 4 buses per hour (2 to Cupar & St Andrews, 2 to Ladybank) demonstrates that, if the village railway station was to get a broadly clockface hourly service, it would be used better. From a timetabling perspective, it may work to give Springfield a bi-hourly service, where the hourly Edinburgh to Arbroath service serves Springfield on the hours that it doesn't serve Monifieth (another station further down the line with a low-ish annual patronage that gets a bi-hourly service). Like with so many least used stations that actually serve a reasonably sized settlement, the lack of service throttles the patronage.
Author - Felix