You Can Ride 'Ghost Trains' On London's Rarely-Used Routes. Here's How

Let me innnnnn.
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If you’ve tried to commute across London over the past few months, chances are you’ve run into one or two disruptions ― or at least a packed carriage.

But while us mere mortals cram into a steamy-windowed rush hour train, it turns out that often-empty “ghost” trains are roaming London’s almost-abandoned tracks ― sometimes completely empty.

Several times a week, lonely trains chug down tracks that are usually shut off to the public. So, we thought we’d share why ― and how you can see them.

Part of it has to do with money

Turns out it’s all about money and effort (relatable).

The BBC reports that, since it’s complicated and time-consuming to officially shut down a railway route, it turns out it’s actually cheaper to simply run a “ghost” train ― also known as a “parliamentary” train ― along the nearly-disused tracks, even if they’ve basically been cut off from the public.

Originally, parliamentary trains were created to operate a passenger service that complied with the Railway Regulation Act 1844, but that’s not the case anymore.

Today, the term refers to services that operate infrequently – for instance, once or twice a week – as a cheaper alternative to closing a railway or station that has previously offered passenger trains.

These trains often only go one way and are sometimes empty. They may seem to exist mainly as an administrative technicality, but should all be on public timetables ― even if they’re tough to spot.

The BBC also shared that a group of people who go by “ghost train hunters” specifically seek out these hard-to-spot, off-menu trips.

I think I want to try one?

Me too! But they can be hard to lay your Oyster card on.

As of January 2022, MyLondon reported that the extension of the platforms in Battersea Park in 2019 meant the Overground railway between Victoria and Wandsworth Road via Battersea Park was essentially cut off for most passengers.

However, as of their time of writing, a tube heading to Battersea Park ran every weekday from Wandsworth Road at 10.43 PM, and several times before 9 AM on Saturdays. This still seems to hold true on TFL’s site.

MyLondon also reported that the train from Liverpool Street to Enfield Town via Stoke Newington normally does not offer a passage through Hackney Downs and some scarcely-used lines in Tottenham. However, if you take the 5:30 AM train from Liverpool Street on Saturdays, you might be able to access this rare route.

This diversion hasn’t been consistent since 2018, though, so check apps like Realtime Trains for more precise data (that advice applies to all of these suggestions).

Unfortunately, a Chiltern Railways train that started its journey from West Ealing instead of the usual Marylebone and ran on a stretch of track usually reserved for freight appears to have stopped operation in 2018.

Still, the “ghost” services still sneakily survive on on London’s rarely-used tracks. So, eagle-eyed commuters should still be able to catch one.