With Friday off and a vague plan to go hiking in the Pennines, what better way to travel than by Parliamentary train? A rail service that only exists because it’s cheaper to run an occasional service than it is to go through an expensive closure procedure? Thankfully there’s just such a departure: the once-a-week Fridays-only 0922 service from Stockport to Stalybridge, providing the only passenger train that calls at Reddish South and Denton stations.
Come the allotted hour at Stockport platform 3, and the train arrives on time from the south. Two 2-car diesel “Pacer” units, though only the front two coaches are in use. With only three passengers on board today, we can spread out a bit.
Leaving the mainline at Heaton Norris Junction at the slug-like speed of around 10mph, we speed up again until the first stop, Reddish South. Nice new Northern Rail signs, but no lighting.
Reddish South may not get many trains but it has Friends with a capital “F”. Campaigners would like to see regular services to Manchester Victoria. A woman walks her dog on the embankment of a reservoir.
Two regulars board at Denton, but presumably don’t go to the expense of a return ticket. After a wrong-platform call at Guide Bridge, we arrive at Stalybridge. The famous buffet bar opens at 10am, although if you want a beer you’ll have to wait until 11am.
The Flyer used to run in the opposite direction, from Stalybridge to Stockport, on a Saturday morning. Now it departs Stockport and Reddish South a few minutes too early to be of use to the twirlies – the Greater Manchester pensioners who are allowed free travel on local trains, but not before 0930 on a weekday, hence “are we too early?” The empty coaches head off back to base: it’s a clever way of running trains back to the depot after the morning rush-hour, but hardly a useful service for locals.