Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The next train to Batley

I've just watched the second episode of the BBC series The Railway: Keeping Britain on Track.

This week's programme looked at the Transpennine Real Ale Trail, the pub crawl by train from Manchester to Batley, stopping off at Huddersfield, Mirfield, Slaithwaite ("Slawit" to locals), Dewsbury, the unofficial pub at Mossley and my own favourite, the Railway at Greenfield where the excellence of the beer is matched by that of the pork pies.

The BBC made the trail look like a hazardous, vomit spattered stagger across Lancashire and Yorkshire with people falling onto the track and abusing other rail passengers and train staff. I've done it a few times for birthdays and stag nights and while some people drink a bit more than they should, the number who cause trouble is tiny compared to the thousands who enjoy a beery day out.

If I lived in one of the small towns on the route, I might think differently about the weekly invasion of inebriated travellers but surely a bit of litter and public urination is a small price to pay for keeping your pubs open and regular train services running?


  1. It's rather like the reports of "the mayhem" in our town centre streets at weekends. I go out every weekend (and not just to Southport) and I rarely see the trouble they like to portray as normal on live action police shows.

  2. You might well think differently if, as I do, you live on one of the small towns on the route.
    The ale trail started off as a good idea, with visitors using the train to sample real ale in convivial surroundings. It’s long since ceased to be that, having been taken over by stag and hen parties and binge drinkers on Saturday afternoons and evenings and (to a lesser extent) on Friday evenings.
    A vomit splattered stagger across Yorkshire is precisely what it is, and the TV programme depicted a typical Saturday afternoon in the summer of 2012.
    As to the argument that it’s “a small price to pay”, that’s easy to say when you’re not the one paying it. A small number of pubs benefit financially, possibly some of the other shops benefit, but when locals keep clear of the village centres on Saturday afternoons it should be clear that other businesses suffer. Judging by the cans and broken bottles thrown over the back of the platforms, for a lot of ale trailers it’s not real ale, but large quantities of lager bought elsewhere.
    As to the suggestion that putting up with “a bit of litter and public urination” (it’s a lot more than that) helps retain the train service, if anything the reverse is true. Usage of the stations between Huddersfield and Stalybridge doubled in 8 years, before the ale trail took off in earnest.
    Now most local residents avoid the trains on Saturdays between noon and 8pm. Would you take a child on a train full of drunken hooligans, swearing, vomiting and pissing all over the place? No, I thought not. Or maybe you think that sort of behaviour is perfectly ok? Yet that’s the price you think residents should be happy to pay.

    1. Anonymous, as I said, I'm sure I would think differently if like you I lived in one of the towns on the route.

      I'm not sure what can be done about it though. Unless you're going to stop the regular rail services or close the pubs at weekends, the only answer I can see is for the police to travel mob handed on the trains and arrest people responsible for what as you say is unacceptable behaviour.

  3. Matt, what annoyed me is the attempt to downplay the impact of the ale trailers.

    I know it's a difficult one to solve, made more difficult by suggestions of a linkage between spending money in local businesses and tolerating antisocial behaviour. Hopefully there will be some high profile policing this summer, once the football season is over and police resources can be made available.

    Maybe I'm turning into Grumpy Old Man.

    Possibly it will go out of fashion, with the binge drinkers going elsewhere leaving the ale trail to those who can appreciate the beer and the surroundings.

    More likely, I fear, that with 200 people on narrow platforms with trains passing at speed someone will end up under the wheels of a train.

    You might be interested in the comments in the latest Huddersfield CAMRA newsletter, at