Commuters across Britain will be used to that early morning scene on the station platform as cyclists, last-minute ticket purchasers and morning gossipers all squeeze onto the platform in time to catch a peak commuter service.
But imagine the opposite. Imagine there’s no hustle and bustle. Imagine you’re the only one.
That’s exactly what happens in Breich, West Lothian, a station that averages just 2.6 users a week. The rural railway station is unsurprisingly unmanned and has an ‘extremely limited service’, according to National Rail. In other words, the 8.04am arrival from Glasgow Central to Edinburgh and the return journey arriving at 6.40pm. Imagine the stress of missing your train.
As well as not having a surge to board the train, there are no toilets, ticket machines or shops. It is one of the most unused stations in Britain and Breich is under threat of closure.
From 2015-16, the footfall – that’s the total number of entries and exits – recorded by the Office of Rail and Road was 138 passengers. Some might argue there’s no harm in keeping an unmanned station open but Network Rail estimates that it could save £1.5 million if the Scottish government closes it as Network Rail looks to modernise – and electrify – the Shotts line, which connect’s the country’s two biggest cities.
‘Where there is proof of demand, such as the Airdrie-Bathgate route and along the Borders Railway, we have actively supported the opening of new stations and the reopening of old ones,’ says David Dickson, ScotRail Alliance infrastructure director.
‘As a responsible steward of the railway and a publicly run organisation, it is also Network Rail’s responsibility to ensure that we consider value for money in relation to the operation of station and rail services.
‘The current and projected demand for rail services to and from Breich is very low. Closure of the station must be considered as an option, however, the views of the local community are vital when making a decision on its future.’
A 12-week consultation on the future of Breich station will open on Monday, July 10, with views being sought from rail users and the local community.
Breich only has a population of 209 (according to a West Lothian report from 2015), is served by the nearby Addiewell and Fauldhouse railway stations and has two dedicated bus services.
For comparison, Waterloo station is the most used station in Britain, with almost 100,000,000 entries and exits each year.
The jury’s still out on the final verdict but the case for closing Breich railway station – savings of £1.5 million vs. the benefit of 138 passengers – seems too overwhelming to look past.
A report will be submitted to Transport Scotland in October 2017 for consideration, which will make the final decision.