In May of this year, I visited IBM station as part of my Least Used Stations blog. There, I found that most of the former IBM Spango Valley site had been demolished and the whole site was derelict. I observed that very few people used it, and I expected that services would be reduced to the bare minimum (in order to not have to go through expensive closure procedures). I also observed that the site would possibly be re-built at some point. I recommend that you have a read of that for a much more detailed description of the station, the surroundings and the reasons for its decline.
Reasons for Closure
The obvious one is that the Spango Valley site is now flat. No buildings are left. The station doesn't serve a population. But, this wasn't the catalyst for closure. The reason provided was that the Police have been having to deal with an increasing amount of anti-social behaviour at Spango Valley. The theory is that closing the station will remove the easy access to the site and therefore reduce anti-social behaviour.
The pictures below show the state of the site as of November 2018. Since my visit in May, the fencing that prohibited people from gaining access to parts of the site had been removed.
Procedures Prior to Closure
In November 2018, it was announced that ScotRail would be withdrawing all services from the station at the December 2018 timetable change. The announcement was done by posting a small banner on the information page for the station on the ScotRail website. One also appeared on the National Rail Enquires website a few days later.
I have always understood that, in order to withdraw all train services from a station, some form of replacement transport must be provided or the station has to be closed entirely. 3 stations in the Midlands (Barlaston, Wedgwood and Norton Bridge) have been served by a “temporary” replacement bus since 2004. However, when I asked ScotRail if any alternative transport would be provided, they told me that none would be. To me, this meant that the station was being closed without following the proper procedures. Even though the withdrawal of services is temporary (the station is being kept in order to serve any future developments on the old IBM site), there is no timeline for this to happen meaning that the station will see no trains until further notice.
There is one thing which could exempt IBM from the normal closure procedures. It was originally opened in 1978 as a private unadvertised halt for staff at the Spango Valley site. Signs at the station still state that only staff and contractors for IBM should alight at the station. As it was originally a private station, this could mean that it is a special case, and the full closure procedures do not need to be followed, nor does replacement transport need to be provided in the case of a closure. This appears to be the consensus of people who know about railway legislation.
I made contact with both Transport Scotland and ScotRail about this when the station was first advertised as closing in mid-November. However, neither of them got back to me with answers.
Another mystery was the apparent withdrawal of Glasgow-bound services in November. Previously, all but one service on the line stopped at IBM. However, RealTimeTrains, National Rail Enquires and other publicly available sources showed IBM as an unadvertised (IE: non-passenger) stop for trains travelling towards Glasgow. Trains travelling from Glasgow were still stopping as normal. I decided that I should do a quick investigation in November, which confirmed that all trains were stopping there as normal. I made sure of this by hiding out of the drivers view until they had unlocked their doors to make sure that my presence did not alter their behaviour. I asked ScotRail and Transport Scotland about this, but (again) they did not provide a response.
The Day of Closure
The station closed at the timetable change. That meant that the last train was the 23:48 service to Glasgow Central on the 8th of December. Having researched travel options, I found that I could do this, returning to Edinburgh on a night coach. With that information in mind, I found myself boarding a delayed train to Glasgow at Haymarket, armed only with anticipation. At Glasgow, I had plenty of time before the next train to IBM, so I got myself a chip-based takeaway and ate it before making my way to Glasgow Central station and the 21:36 departure. My ticket wasn't checked on the way to IBM. I alighted, getting a good stare from a small teenager as I snapped the departing train.
IBM was as desolate as ever. The darkness only amplified it. I sat in the waiting room, watching as the the train I had alighted from earlier returned back to Glasgow.
I had another hour before the last train. I decided not to leave the station site as I had already seen enough of the Spango Valley area in the day without spooking myself (and possibly getting questioned). I remained on the platform until the penultimate train arrived at 23:23. One man alighted. I had a quick chat with the driver and confirmed that he was stopped on the return to Glasgow. He (and his train) then departed to Wemyss Bay.
25 minutes later, the train returned. Unit 314216 operated the 23:48 departure from IBM to Glasgow Central, the very last train to stop there for the foreseeable future. I greeted the driver again before boarding. The final train then left IBM.
As the guard came through to check tickets, we had a short discussion about IBM and the reasons for closure.
Once back at Glasgow, I walked to Buchannan Street bus station, and spent part of the return journey on a coach, with the man next to me falling asleep against me.
And that's it. No ceremony for the closure of a station. I was surprised that only two people (including me) turned out to see a small part of railway history. Possibly because everyone was still crying from the closure of Old Oak Common Depot a few hours earlier.
As observed earlier, this closure is expected to be temporary. Nobody can be sure when the station will see passenger services again. Until then, passenger services at IBM will be part of railway history. However, as class 314s are due to be withdrawn over the next year, this will be the last time one of these elderly units ever stops at IBM. It is quite fitting that the last train at the station was operated by a unit that will soon leave the railway forever.
Author - Felix