Experimental passenger services

A (hopefully) comprehensive listing

Last update 7 March 2022

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This is a list of British railway services introduced under special legislation. This allows operators to consider certain services as 'experimental' and withdraw them if considered necessary without going through full closure procedures. Experimental status usually, but does not necessarily, lasts for five years, after which any attempt at withdrawing a service must comply with full closure procedures.

Data shown here covers those experimental services introduced since the formation of the Office of the Rail Regulator and its successorsThe Office of the Rail Regulator became the Office of Rail Regulation on 5 July 2004 (when responsibility was shared by a committee rather than solely borne by an individual), then in April 2015 became the Office of Rail and Road (on becoming Highways England's regulator). All of course are 'the ORR' under section 48 of the Railways Act 1993, or section 36 of the Railways Act 2005 (which repealed the 1993 legislation), and such earlier services for which data (under the Transport Act 1962 (Amendment) Act 1981, commonly known as the 'Speller Act' or 'Speller Amendment') has been found.

Pre-1994, designation and expiry details are harder to determine. Often, the designation would coincide with opening, but that was by no means universally true and thus only the few dates that can be given with any certainty are quoted. From creation of the ORR in 1994, better records were kept and are easier to interrogate so more details are shown. Official records are not necessarily without error or ambiguity. This listing attempts to give the actual facility designated, with the designation definition in square brackets where this is significantly different.

The Department for Transport (which holds records collated by the former Strategic Rail Authority) states that no applications for experimental status under the 1993 act have been declined, and at 2015 only one application has been made under the 2005 act (though others are apparently under consideration). It would appear that, as there are few entries since the year 2000, either:

On the whole, given the small number of services withdrawn, Speller's amendment to the transport act seems to have been worthwhile and shows remarkable foresight on the part of parliament, particularly at a time of general decline on the railways. It is notable that very few facilities have closed, and a good proportion of those that have are because they have been replaced with newer facilities.

Designation date Status expired Station or route Facility Date opened Date closed
13 June 1983? 15 May 1988 Station Pinhoe 16 May 1983
unknown unknown Route Penistone (Barnsley Junction) - Barnsley (Exchange Junction) 16 May 1983
unknown unknown Station Templecombe 3 October 1983
unknown unknown Station Moss Side 21 November 1983
unknown unknown Station Lostock Hall 14 May 1984
unknown unknown Station Sherburn in Elmet 9 July 1984
unknown unknown Station Dyce 15 September 1984
unknown unknown Station Humphrey Park 15 October 1984
unknown unknown Station Mills Hill 25 March 1985
unknown unknown Station South Gyle 9 May 1985
unknown unknown Station Loch Awe 1 May 1985
unknown unknown Station Loch Eil Outward Bound 6 May 1985
unknown unknown Station Flowery Field 13 May 1985
unknown unknown Station Melksham 13 May 1985
unknown unknown Station Bridge of Allan 13 May 1985
unknown unknown Station Portlethen 17 May 1985
unknown unknown Station DunrobinSeasonal service 30 June 1985
unknown unknown Station Smithy Bridge 19 August 1985
unknown unknown Station Derker 30 September 1985
unknown unknown Station Ryder Brow 4 November 1985
unknown unknown Route Edinburgh - BathgateOnly small portion closed, diverted to new route 24 March 1986 17 October 2010
unknown unknown Station BathgateStation moved to new site 24 March 1986 17 October 2010
unknown unknown Station Livingston North 24 March 1986
unknown unknown Station Uphall 24 March 1986
unknown unknown Route Addlestone Junction - Byfleet Junction'Experimental' status and services withdrawn, but some occasional 'non-experimental' services remain(ed) 12 May 1986 11 May 1992
unknown unknown Station Godley 7 July 1986
unknown unknown Station Ynyswen 29 September 1986
unknown unknown Station Hall i' th' Wood 29 September 1986
unknown unknown Station Burnley Manchester Road 13 October 1986
unknown unknown Station Blackpool Pleasure Beach 13 April 1987
unknown unknown Route Kettering - CorbyLine reopened 23 February 2009 13 April 1987 4 June 1990
unknown unknown Station CorbyStation reopened 23 February 2009 13 April 1987 4 June 1990
unknown unknown Station Ty Glas 29 April 1987
unknown unknown Route Dore South curve 11 May 1987 17 May 1993
unknown unknown Route Oxford - Bicester TownRoute closed for rebuilding; mostly reopened 25 October 2015, remaining section west of new Oxford Parkway station reopened 11 December 2016 11 May 1987 15 February 2014
unknown unknown Station Bicester TownStation moved to new site 11 May 1987 15 February 2014
unknown unknown Station Wester Hailes 11 May 1987
unknown unknown Station Hag Fold 11 May 1987
unknown unknown Route Coventry - Nuneaton 11 May 1987
unknown unknown Route Heysham Sea Terminal - Morecambe 11 May 1987
unknown unknown Station Heysham Sea Terminal 11 May 1987
unknown unknown Station Sugar Loaf 21 June 1987
unknown unknown Station Conwy 29 June 1987
unknown unknown Station Gateshead Metro Centre 3 August 1987
unknown unknown Route Coatbridge Central - MotherwellThrough trains already operated, designation was for new local service 3 August 1987
unknown unknown Route Cardiff City line (Radyr Junction - Cardiff Penarth Curve East via Fairwater)Designation was in respect of a regular service, not a single train on the route introduced 13 May 1985 5 October 1987
unknown unknown Station Danes Court 5 October 1987
unknown unknown Station Fairwater 5 October 1987
unknown unknown Station Ninian Park 5 October 1987
unknown unknown Station Curriehill 5 October 1987
unknown unknown Station Waun-Gron Park 2 November 1987
unknown unknown Route Abercynon - Aberdare 3 October 1988
unknown unknown Station Abercynon NorthReplaced by Abercynon (former South) station 3 October 1988 30 May 2008
unknown unknown Station Aberdare 3 October 1988
unknown unknown Station Cwmbach 3 October 1988
unknown unknown Station Fernhill 3 October 1988
unknown unknown Station Mountain AshStation moved to adjacent site 3 October 1988 29 January 2001
unknown unknown Station Penrhiwceiber 3 October 1988
unknown unknown Route Lichfield City - Lichfield Trent Valley High Level 28 November 1988
unknown unknown Route Walsall - Hednesford 10 April 1989
unknown unknown Station Hednesford 10 April 1989
unknown unknown Station Cannock 10 April 1989
unknown unknown Station Landywood 10 April 1989
unknown unknown Route Thornton West Junction - South Junction 15 May 1989
unknown unknown Route Timperley (Deansgate Junction) - Stockport (Edgeley No 1 Junction) designation: Altrincham - Stockport 15 May 1989
unknown unknown Route Bishop Auckland - StanhopeSeasonal service 22 May 1988 27 September 1992
unknown unknown Station StanhopeSeasonal service 22 May 1988 27 September 1992
unknown unknown Route Bridgend - Maesteg 28 September 1992
unknown unknown Station Maesteg 28 September 1992
unknown unknown Station Garth 28 September 1992
unknown unknown Station Sarn 28 September 1992
unknown unknown Station Tondu 28 September 1992
unknown 16 May 1998 Station Newstead 17 May 1993
unknown 16 May 1998 Station Hucknall 17 May 1993
30 May 1993? unknown Route Farington Junction - Lostock Hall JunctionSummer Sundays only 30 May 1993 September 1993
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Ivybridge 15 July 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Route Willesden High Level Junction - Mitre Bridge Junction designation: station on the line between Willesden High Level Junction and Mitre Bridge Junction, but this is not a station 31 May 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Cam and Dursley 29 May 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Route Sheepcote Lane Curve (Latchmere No 3 Junction - West London Junction) see also 24 October 1994 designation: for Eurostar link services 29 May 1994 6 January 1997
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Digby and Sowton 29 May 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Bulwell 23 May 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Sileby 30 May 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Syston 30 May 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Barrow upon Soar 30 May 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Ramsgreave & Wilpshire 29 May 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Langho 29 May 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Whalley 29 May 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Route Earlestown West Junction - South Junction 29 May 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Route North Somerset Junction - Dr Day's Junction designation: station on the line between North Somerset Junction and Dr Day's Junction, but this is not a station 30 May 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Llansamlet 27 June 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Skewen 27 June 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Pyle 27 June 1994
29 May 1994 28 May 1999 Station Briton Ferry 1 June 1994
5 September 1994 4 September 1999 Station Prestwick International Airport 5 September 1994
24 September 1994 23 September 1999 Station Camelon 25 September 1994
24 October 1994 23 October 1999 Route Sheepcote Lane Curve (Latchmere No 3 Junction - West London Junction) see also 29 May 1994intended closure date 1 October 2004; last train 21 May 2004, weekly taxi thence to December 2004 designation: for Waterloo - Cardiff services 24 October 1994 1 October 2004
12 November 1995 11 November 2000 Route Newstead to Mansfield Woodhouse 20 November 1995
12 November 1995 11 November 2000 Station Kirkby Centre Overtaken by events, redesignated as Kirkby in Ashfield
12 November 1995 11 November 2000 Station Sutton Parkway 20 November 1995
12 November 1995 11 November 2000 Station Mansfield 20 November 1995
12 November 1995 11 November 2000 Station Mansfield Woodhouse 20 November 1995
12 November 1995 11 November 2000 Route Heald Green West Junction - Heald Green South JunctionFor Airport-Wilmslow service 15 January 1996
28 May 1995 27 May 2000 Route New Beckenham - Beckenham Junction'Experimental' status and services withdrawn, but some occasional 'non-experimental' services remain(ed) 29 May 1995 29 May 2000
28 May 1995 27 May 2000 Station Willington 29 May 1995
28 May 1995 27 May 2000 Station Chafford Hundred 30 May 1995
17 February 1996 16 February 2001 Station Yarm 19 February 1996
1 June 1996 31 May 2001 Route Dalmeny Junction - Winchburgh JunctionNo service from 23 March 2020 when emergency timetable introduced; did not appear in May 2020 national timetable, though formal closure proceedings not carried out. 3 June 1996 17 May 2020
1 June 1996 31 May 2001 Station Baglan 2 June 1996
13 September 1996 12 September 2001 Station Kirkby in Ashfield 19 November 1996
24 May 1997 23 September 1997 Route Crediton - Okehampton see also 24 May 1998 and 29 May 1999 25 May 1997 21 September 1997
24 May 1997 23 September 1997 Station Okehampton see also 24 May 1998 and 29 May 1999 25 May 1997 21 September 1997
1 June 1997 31 May 2001 Route Hednesford - Rugeley Town 2 June 1997
1 June 1997 31 May 2001 Station Rugeley Town 2 June 1997
27 July 1997 26 July 2002 Route Maindee North Junction - East Usk Junction 4 October 1997 11 December 2005
October 1997 unknown Route Crayford - Slade Green designation: station on the line between Crayford and Slade Green, but this is not a station Overtaken by events, redesignated 24 May 1998
15 December 1997 14 December 2002 Station Euxton Balshaw Lane 15 December 1997
19 January 1998 18 January 2003 Route Heathrow Junction - Heathrow Junction stationSpur into temporary station closed, remainder still open designation: services between London Paddington and Heathrow Junction station 19 January 1998 25 May 1998
19 January 1998 18 January 2003 Station Heathrow JunctionTemporary station, replaced by permanent facilities 19 January 1998 25 May 1998
1 March 1998 28 February 2003 Station Dalgety Bay 28 March 1998
24 May 1998 23 May 2003 Station Shirebrook 25 May 1998
24 May 1998 23 May 2003 Station Langwith Whaley Thorns designation: Langwith and Whaley Thorns 25 May 1998
24 May 1998 23 May 2003 Station Creswell 25 May 1998
24 May 1998 23 May 2003 Station Whitwell 25 May 1998
24 May 1998 23 May 2003 Route Hambleton South Junction - Hambleton West Junction 25 May 1998
24 May 1998 23 May 2003 Route Didcot West Curve Junction - Foxhall Junction designation: line between Appleford and Swindon 31 May 1999 17 May 2003
24 May 1998 23 May 2003 Route Crayford Spur B Junction - Crayford Spur A Junction 25 May 1998
24 May 1998 23 May 2003 Route Rugeley Town - Rugeley Trent Valley 25 May 1998
24 May 1998 23 November 1998 Route Crediton - Okehampton see also 24 May 1997 and 29 May 1999 24 May 1998 20 September 1998
24 May 1998 24 November 1998 Station Okehampton see also 24 May 1997 and 29 May 1999 24 May 1998 20 September 1998
29 May 1999 28 November 1999 Route Crediton - OkehamptonTo avoid repeated designations, subsequent years' service was considered 'established' see also 24 May 1997 and 24 May 1998 30 May 1999 19 September 1999
29 May 1999 28 November 1999 Station OkehamptonTo avoid repeated designations, subsequent years' service was considered 'established' see also 24 May 1997 and 24 May 1998 30 May 1999 19 September 1999
29 May 1999 28 May 2004 Route Romsey - Eastleigh via Chandlers Ford route designation: Salisbury - Eastleigh 31 May 1999
25 January 2000 24 January 2005 Station Dunfermline Queen Margaret designation: station between Inverkeithing North Junction and Aberdour; Dunfermline Queen Margaret Street 26 January 2000
28 May 2000 27 May 2005 Route South Acton Junction - Kew East Junction - Old Kew Junction designation: services between Chelmsford and Basingstoke 28 May 2000 29 September 2002
28 May 2000 27 May 2005 Route Graham Road CurveNever used except during engineering diversion designation: services between Chelmsford and Basingstoke n/a n/a
12 February 2002 11 February 2003designation extended Station Beauly 15 April 2002
21 June 2002 31 August 2002 Route Swansea District LineDesignation published simultaneously with its withdrawal notice, for summer service only, one round trip weekdays only. The line has subsequently come into regular use Wales & Borders Cardiff - Fishguard services 8 July 2002 31 August 2002
12 February 2003 11 February 2004designation extended Station Beauly already open, see 12 February 2002
12 February 2004 11 February 2005 Station Beauly already open, see 12 February 2002
22 May 2011 21 May 2016 Route Hawkeridge Junction - Westbury East Loop Junction 22 May 2011 15 May 2016
8 July 2011 7 July 2016 Station Southend Airport 18 July 2011
12 September 2011 11 September 2014 Service Frequent services to Fishguard HarbourIt is difficult to see how these extra services can be 'experimental' in the sense of being able to withdraw them, as even if they are withdrawn a service will still operate (the approximately-every-12-hours ferry connection). Thus, in practice, withdrawing them will be no different to a drastic timetable change, and no section of line will be left without a service. Perhaps the relevant authorities are not too sure about what the legislation is for, or in some way trying to 'cover themselves' designation: railway services on Fishguard branch 12 September 2011
13 December 2015 12 December 2020 Route Yeovil Junction - Yeovil Pen Mill 13 December 2015
15 December 2019 14 December 2024 Station Warrington West 15 December 2019
5 March 2020 4 March 2025? Station Horden 29 June 2020

If this type of data interests you, you might like to explore the hidden depths of the Office of Rail & Road. The government's legislation web site has the Railways Act 1993, the Railways Act 2005 and the Transport Act 1962 (Amendment) Act 1981. For other railway legislation and other important documentation (e.g. the Beeching and Serpell reports), try Garry Keenor's Railways Archive pages.

If you are interested in riding unusual routes, you might like to visit the Branch Line Society web site, the Passenger Train Services over Unusual Lines (PSUL) pages or Gensheet.

Tables compiled in collaboration with Richard Maund.