Built and opened in 1978 for a bargain price of just £50,000, Lelant Saltings Park & Ride was an instant success, and for more than four decades it was the place where thousands of visitors to St Ives left their cars and took a scenic four-mile train ride to the bustling artistic capital of Cornwall.
But Lelant Saltings is no more. Three months ago (in June 2019) the popular facility was replaced by smart new parking at nearby St Erth station, its 300 parking spaces now standing eerily empty and its half-hourly service to St Ives reduced to a Parliamentary level of one train a day in each direction.
So it was hardly surprising then that there was no one on the platform as I alighted from the one weekday down train at 07.56 on Friday (13 September).
Had anyone wanted to join, they would only have been able to pay the briefest of visits to St Ives, arriving at 08.07 and returning a little over an hour later on the 09.20 train, reaching the Saltings ten minutes later.
It is pretty much the same on a Saturday, when you will have just an hour in St Ives, but things change completely on Sundays, when the former Park and Ride is served by the first St Ives-bound train (08.56) and the final departure of the day from St Ives (19.45), making for a rather long day out.
Standing alone on the platform alongside the attractive Hayle estuary, it is already becoming hard to visualise the hordes of tourists who for the past 41 years filled the four-coach trains to St. Ives throughout the holiday season.
A help point and signs remain, and the branch line’s up outer home signal (SE9) stands just beyond the south end of the platform, but the car park is now locked for good, its ticket machines standing forlorn and forgotten.
Running the token Parliamentary service does away with the inconvenience of GWR having to go through a closure procedure so, as long as the present situation continues, Lelant Saltings will join the likes of British Steel Redcar, Teesside Airport and Coombe Junction Halt as one of Britain’s least used stations.
Partly compensating for the loss of services at Lelant Saltings has been a significant improvement in services at nearby Lelant, which is a brisk 12-minute walk away down a narrow country lane that forms part of the South West Coastal Path (pictured below).
It remains the branch line’s only request stop, but from previously having only a token service itself, Lelant now enjoys the luxury of 14 down and 13 up calls on weekdays, a similar number on Saturdays and a handful of Sunday stops. Pictured bottom is the 07.56 departure from Lelant Saltings.