by Phil Marsh

Pye Corner opens in record time

Published: 25th January 2015

Northampton Castle finally opens after contractual issues

The intriguingly named Pye Corner station opened just before Christmas and is located in the western Bassaleg outskirts of Newport (South Wales) on the Ebbw Vale line. This was reopened a few years ago after losing its train service decades ago only remaining open because of freight services serving heavy industry.

The station has one platform and cost £3.5 million jointly funded by the Welsh Government and the Department for Transport’s (DfT) new station fund. This has promised to build five new stations on the UK rail network and provided £2.15million for Pye Corner with the Welsh Government funding the rest.

Pye Corner has an hourly train service to and from Cardiff and Ebbw Vale and as the line is connected to the south Wales main line by lines to the east and west, trains could also run towards Bristol and Gloucester in the future. Currently they can only run westwards as the east connection is not signaled to the required more exacting passenger standards.

Pye corner has CCTV, a 60 space car park and electric car charging points all of which is hoped will help relieve Newport’s traffic congestion and open up the area to public transport.

Construction work started in April 2014 and the DfT reckons it one of the fastest ever built stations helped by the fact it is unstaffed and features a waiting shelter and ticket machine. The station project included creating a new adjacent road layout with a new mini roundabout to ease traffic.

They said:

Welsh Government Transport Minister Edwina Hart said: "I want to ensure people have access to the efficient and comfortable public transport services they need. Ebbw Vale railway line is already very popular, with some 300,000 journeys annually. Together with the new Ebbw Vale Town station, which is opening soon, Pye Corner will improve access to jobs and services for many people along this busy route."

Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said:

Pye Corner station will make a huge difference to local people. By helping passengers access work and leisure, it will help build a stronger economy. The design and building of the station has also been carried out in an amazingly short time to benefit passengers as soon as possible. Funding projects like this are at the heart of the government's record investment in the railway.

The line will have another station soon when Ebbw Vale Town station opens later this year. Not a bad result for a line that lost its passenger trains decades ago and almost closed!

Northampton station opens (late) with new fleet of trains (on time)

The BBC proudly presented a news item from the new Northampton Castle station building in early January when the fares increase took place boasting that they were the first journalists allowed in the station. But the fact that the station should have opened in 2014 was missed out!

This was because the £20 million project was running late after various issues were not resolved between Network Rail, the local authorities and London Midland who run the station. The only thing they agreed on was not to allow journalists on-site while project completion remained unresolved. The local Northampton South MP wrote to Network Rail asking why the station opening had been delayed over three months. They replied that testing, snagging and contractual issues had caused the delay but it is understood that cabling issues were the sticking point..

Delays soon forgotten

The station building is far better than the station building it replaced and very soon, the delay in opening will be forgotten. The station was opened formally by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin on 12 January saying that it will provide improved journeys for thousands of passengers every day.

The new station, part-funded with £10 million of government investment now provides a modern gateway to the town unlike the dingy former building which was being demolished hours after being vacated. The new building is over double the size of the previous station building and has more ticket gates to reduce bottlenecks and new accessible lifts.

They said:

Patrick McLoughlin said:

I am delighted that passengers in Northampton are able to benefit from this impressive new station, with further improvements to come as the work is completed. This, along with the thousands of extra seats being provided by £62 million of government investment, will make a real difference to passengers’ journeys.

The station, which is managed by London Midland, has been built by Network Rail in partnership with Northamptonshire County Council and Northampton Borough Council. Now the station has been declared operational so far as railway use is concerned, the retail areas are now being fitted out.

New trains

The new fleet of 10 Class 350/3 electric trains are now in service and based at Northampton’s Siemens Depot and the extra 40 carriages will relieve overcrowding on London Midland’s trains.

Scotland’s new stations announced

Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown has announced that Scotland will have two new stations. One at East Linton in East Lothian and another at Reston in Berwickshire. Both will be served by Edinburgh to Berwick on a two hourly basis from December 2016.

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