Things we learned visiting every station in Great Britain

 

Geoff Marshall and Vicki Pipe have completed an epic journey to visit all 2,563 railway stations in Great Britain.

Having raised £38,654 through crowdfunding, the couple spent 14 weeks, six days, eight hours and 22 minutes ticking off all the stations listed by the Office of Rail and Road, making 60 videos along their journey.

So what did they uncover that surprised them?

1) A large part of the network still relies on surprisingly old technology

Ms Pipe: 'I didn’t realise how many "old style" bits of infrastructure are still in use across the rail network. Semaphore signals were something I thought belonged in the past, but in fact they’re quite common across parts of the network.

'In places such as the Morecombe branch, the driver has to get out of the cab to change the signal themselves.

'Another thing I didn’t realise still existed was manually-operated level crossing gates. The crossing person’s role used to be widespread but automation has changed that.'

2) Organising the staffing of the railways is a feat of logistical brilliance

Mr Marshall, who is a twice world record holder for visiting all the London Underground stations in the shortest time says: 'I’d heard about how complex it is organising the staff roster so a train can get from its start to its destination using multiple drivers, but seeing it in action was mind-blowing.

'Most people think you get on a train and the driver takes you from A-F. But there could be multiple drivers along that route, as some go to drive other trains, or are returning at the end of their shift.'

3) Everyone thinks their line is the worst in the country 

'When we would say where we were off to, people would always tell us "good luck getting to where you want to on my line, it’s the worst",' says Mr Marshall.

'It’s understandable because these are the lines they use the most and don’t have much experience of others. In fact 98% of our trains were on time, and nine in 10 trains nationally run on time.'

So what’s the worst line? 'You’d have to look at the performance tables for that,' says Mr Marshall. 'But I reckon Southern can’t be performing too well.'

Ms Pipe chips in: 'The amount people complain shows how vital the railways are for everyone. People we spoke to, whether they liked travelling by train or not, were going to visit friends, or going to work or seeing someone in hospital – and rail was the best way to get there. The railway is like a huge offline social network linking people up in different parts of the country.'

4) People on trains are happy to talk to you

'Maybe it’s because we’re from London that this surprised us, but we generally found it very easy to strike up conversations with people on trains,' says Mr Marshall.

'It’s definitely made me want to start talking to more people when I get back to London, even though I’ll probably get some bad looks as a result.'

5) Older trains are more sociable

'I’ve developed a love for Pacer trains [1980s-built British Rail classes 140, 141, 142, 143 and 144 diesel multiple unit railbuses],' Ms Pipe says.

'The seating layout is much more sociable than modern trains. Pacer trains have benches opposite each other so you can strike up conversations with people, or people who are already friendly can easily bump into one another.'

Watch Geoff and Vicki’s adventure on their Youtube channel, or see the All The Stations website for more information.

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