Stanlow and Thornton railway station

Coordinates: 53°16′41″N 2°50′28″W / 53.278°N 2.841°W / 53.278; -2.841
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Stanlow and Thornton
National Rail
On the platform
General information
LocationStanlow, Cheshire West and Chester
Grid referenceSJ440760
Managed byNorthern Trains
Other information
Station codeSNT
ClassificationDfT category F2
Key dates
23 December 1940Opened
3 February 2022Services suspended
2018/19Decrease 46
2019/20Increase 82
2020/21Decrease 0
2021/22Increase 44
2022/23Decrease 0
Passenger statistics from the Office of Rail and Road

Stanlow and Thornton railway station is located within the Stanlow Refinery in Cheshire, England. It lies on the Hooton–Helsby line with services operated by Northern Trains. The station is surrounded by the refinery site, so as a result most station users are refinery employees.[1] In 2018–19 it was the joint least-used railway station in Britain, tied with Denton in Greater Manchester.[2] In 2020/21, the station was also one of the least used stations in Britain, with 0 entries/exits. Since 3 February 2022 the station has been temporarily closed due to safety concerns of the footbridge which is the only entrypoint to the station.[3]


Stanlow & Thornton track layout in 1975

The station was opened on 23 December 1940 jointly by the Great Western Railway and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.[4][page needed] The station served the Shell Thornton Aero Engine Laboratory (AEL), which was responsible for developing fuels and oils for the aircraft of the Royal Air Force.

A short distance from the station was a signal box. This controlled all of the sidings used for freight. Shell stopped using rail as a method of transportation of goods, and subsequently, the sidings were removed. Eventually, the signal box was dismantled and donated to the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway.[5] Today, the signals for this line and station are controlled at Helsby and Ellesmere Port signal boxes, operated by Network Rail.

The station was originally earmarked for closure under what is known today as the Beeching Axe, a report created by Dr. Beeching entitled "The Reshaping of British Railways". This was a report commissioned by the government to find out how money could be saved, as use of the railways began to decline.[6]

Quietest station in the UK[edit]

Station usage statistics for 2004–05 showed 40 passengers using the station, less than one per week.[7] Passenger numbers began to increase at the station in 2005–06, with 130 people using it in 2005–06. This rose sharply to 326 in 2006–07, despite the same rail services being operated.

In January 2020 the station was named as the joint quietest in the UK, alongside Denton Station in Greater Manchester, with just 46 entries and exits in the period 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019.[8] Passengers increased to 82 the following year, but Stanlow and Thornton remained one of only six British stations to serve fewer than 100 annual passengers.[9]


The steps lead down to the refinery site

At this station there are covered shelters, with three metal seats on either platform. There is a payphone located on the Helsby platform.[10]

A footpath leads from the road to a flight of 48 steps with 2 rest landings and a handrail onto a footbridge. From the footbridge to the left, the first flight of 30 steps with rest landing and handrail leads to the Helsby platform, and the second flight of 30 steps with rest landing and handrail leads to the Ellesmere Port platform. The station is definitely not accessible for people with mobility problems.[11]

The now-defunct booking office at Stanlow & Thornton

The booking office is still extant at the Ellesmere Port platform, but has been closed for some time. It now houses the electrics for the station and is boarded up.

Although not controlled by Northern Trains, the station does have CCTV monitored by the security services at the Essar oil refinery.

There is limited car parking at the entrance of the station.

The station is now unstaffed with no ticket office so passengers buy tickets from a conductor on board the train.[12]


No trains currently call at this station due to it being closed because of safety concerns.[3] It used to receive 4 trains a day on weekdays and Saturdays. These services were from Helsby to Ellesmere Port and return, except for the final evening service which went to Liverpool Lime Street. There is no estimate as to when services may resume.

The North Cheshire Rail User Group supports and actively campaigns for an improved service at this station and for this railway line.[13]

Preceding station National Rail National Rail Following station
Northern Trains
(service suspended)

Public transport interchange[edit]

The station is located on Oil Sites Road, a private road owned by Essar Oil. This is now closed to motor vehicles, except for access to the site. The original owner, Shell, had cited increased commercial traffic to its refinery and the number of public vehicles using the road, recklessly in some cases, as reasons for closure.[14] The road previously also allowed quick access to the villages of Ince and Elton from Ellesmere Port and beyond.

Although it is theoretically accessible by foot, it involves a long walk from either Ellesmere Port, Ince or Elton, all of which have their own railway stations. There are no bus or taxi services at this station due to the access restrictions.



  1. ^ "Stanlow railway station map". Archived from the original on 9 July 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  2. ^ "Least Used Stations". Archived from the original on 6 April 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Sorry folks following an inspection we've temporarily shut Stanlow&Thornton station in Ellesmere Port due to concerns over the safety of the footbridge". @NetworkRailLIV. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  4. ^ Butt 1995.
  5. ^ "Archived News: Stanlow & Thornton". Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway. Archived from the original on 17 August 2008. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
  6. ^ The Reshaping of British Railways (PDF). Retrieved 9 August 2008 – via RailwaysArchive.
  7. ^ "Station Usage Statistics". Archived from the original (MS Excel) on 22 January 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  8. ^ "Station usage 2018-19 least used stations in 2018-19". Office of Rail and Road. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  9. ^ Gwyn Topham (1 December 2020). "Britain's least used railway station served just 42 passengers in 2019". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  10. ^ "Stanlow & Thornton: Station Facilities". National Rail. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
  11. ^ "Stanlow & Thornton: Accessibility". National Rail. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
  12. ^ "Stanlow & Thornton: Ticketing options available". National Rail. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  13. ^ "North Cheshire Rail User Group". Retrieved 9 August 2008.
  14. ^ "Road shut to public". Cheshire Live. 12 March 2008. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2021.


Butt, R. V. J. (October 1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85260-508-7. OCLC 60251199. OL 11956311M.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

53°16′41″N 2°50′28″W / 53.278°N 2.841°W / 53.278; -2.841