Time Called for Lager Loving Bugs Bunny Lookalikes

Lager and fancy dress ban imposed on Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar and other pubs on the Rail Ale Trail

Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar
‘…That’s All Folks…’ – if you’re dressed up as Bugs Bunny, Batman, Robin or Wonderwoman. I doubt as if the ‘I’ve come as a chauffeur’ excuse would wash either. And you can’t have a pint of lager, nor a double Laphroaig either.

The Rail Ale Trail was based on an idea by The Independent journalist Stephen O’Loughlin, in an article from 12 December 1988 entitled ‘Trains Pass So Close, Your Drink Rocks Gently in the Glass.

It was commercialised by Northern Rail in 2009, following a TV programme with Oz Clark and James May featuring Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar. It has resulted in footfall passing the million mark at Stalybridge railway station. As a consequence, it has made the Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield all stations service a big earner on Saturdays.

Though created with good intentions, the Rail Ale Trail has been hijacked by numpties who care little for real ale. Instead of the idea of sampling cask conditioned ales, some passengers have turned it into a ‘must-do’ event for Stag Dos and Hen Dos. Therefore, the boorish atmosphere has put locals off using the stopping service on Saturdays, with an atmosphere more akin to Football Specials than leisurely weekend services.

There has been reports of antisocial behaviour with some using nearby streets as public urinals. This year’s annual Marsden Hymn and March Contest has had to be switched from late Saturday afternoon to Sunday evening.

In the last four years, Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar has had to remove its picnic tables from the Yorkshire platform. Plastic glasses, hard and soft plastic varieties have had to be introduced on Saturdays.

From the 15 June, anyone wishing to visit Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar on Saturdays will be refused entry if seen in fancy dress, or if seen as part of a Stag Do or Hen Do party. Shots, double spirits measures and lager won’t be sold. These restrictions will be effective between 1200 and 2000 hours.

Other pubs participating in the scheme are: the West Riding Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury; The King’s Head on the Manchester platform at Huddersfield railway station; The Commercial, Slaithwaite; and The Navigation Tavern, Mirfield. The Riverhead Brewery Tap on High Street, Marsden plan to introduce Street Marshals on the 15 June to keep watch for potential troublemakers.

Large groups will need to notify Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar and any of the above four pub mentioned in advance.

Though this seems draconian for some, it is a good step towards reclaiming the original purpose of the Rail Ale Trail. Furthermore, it enables weekend travellers to use local services free of local and not-so-local people unable to handle their booze.

However, some may choose alternative venues which may shunt the problems elsewhere in the town and village centres. That too ought to be addressed, though this shouldn’t come in the way of anyone’s right to a quiet drink. Be it real ale, lager, vodka or whisky.

S.V., 07 June 2013.

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11 thoughts on “Time Called for Lager Loving Bugs Bunny Lookalikes

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  1. Pathetic! Have a read at this:

    This has been posted on the RailUK forum and is produced here with permission from the author, who is a local.

    Quote:
    This is nothing more than a publicity stunt which hasn’t been thought through and seems to have been misrepresented by the Examiner (quelle surprise).

    At least one of the pubs they name have stated on their Facebook page to the effect that it’s business as usual on Saturdays but if things get out of hand in that pub (which has never happened) they’ll stop serving lager.

    But let’s believe for a moment that this plan was put into action and pubs refuse to serve hen/stag groups. What happens then? Assuming they have calmly left the premises rather than kicking off, you now have a group of “merry” people at a loose end for an hour until the next train. Assuming they can’t find a pub to serve them (which is unlikely) they’ll go to the co-op and get a crate of tins to consume either on the station or sitting on somebody’s garden wall. And won’t have access to any toilet facilities, so will end up improvising. The police haven’t got the resources to do anything – if they do have to arrest anybody that takes the officer involved out of the loop for the rest of the afternoon doing paperwork. This just hasn’t been thought through.

    I attended a public meeting, held in Slaithwaite, a few months ago which was attended by the police (West Yorkshire and BTP), local councillors, the local MP and a representative of Northern who didn’t do himself any favours – he turned up late and proceeded to be more interested in his laptop than listening to questions that were put to him, and even less interested in any suggestion that involved Northern doing something.

    It was notable that almost all of the public who were present were from Marsden. My perception as somebody from Slaithwaite’s neighbouring village who spends quite a lot of time there is that the Ale Trail is generally good natured within the village. Most in Slaithwaite (with the notable exception of a couple of NIMBYs who bought a property near the station without doing their research properly, and got a shock on the Saturday after they moved in) appreciate the extra trade that comes into the village and aren’t really inconvenienced by it.

    However I do appreciate that in Marsden it’s different. For those from West Yorkshire it’s the end of the line if they have a Day Rover or don’t want to pay the ridiculous fare to continue towards Manchester. So people are likely to spend longer in Marsden before turning back, so there are several train loads there at once.

    The aforementioned Northern rep at the public meeting flatly dismissed suggestions that sorting out the infamous Marsden-Greenfield fare anomaly might be a good way of encouraging people to continue through to Stalybridge where, any trouble could be confined to the station and thus inconvenience fewer people. It would also be appreciated by many of the locals and might generate some goodwill.

    And that is where I see the solution to this problem. As much as the residents of Marsden might like to think otherwise, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, the Ale Trail is here to stay. So their efforts would be better used in campaigning for infrastructure to be upgraded to cope with the numbers of visitors. Let’s have more litter bins, let’s have toilets and better waiting facilities at Marsden and Slaithwaite stations. Surely the footfall Marsden is getting justifies sorting out the accessibility issues on the Huddersfield platform? Fix these things to cope with the Ale Trail and the facilities are there for the locals to use in the week.

    Interesting comments about people from Yorkshire terminating their trail at Marsden because of ticketing/pricing issues, being the end of the Day Rover zone and not traveling onwards to Greenfield and Stalybridge.

    The finger is once again pointing at Northern Rail management and their attitude, which is demonstrated in the article above. Are they not responsible for allowing people, unfit through drink onto the station and to travel on their services? If they do not have sufficient staff on duty to cope, just who’s fault is it? Northern Rail management must know they have not sufficient staff to cope at these pinch points and if the situation is considered dangerous to train/station staff and passengers, should they not urgently bring in the BTP/West Yorkshire Constabulary to clear and close the station temporarily? Should they then only allow passengers back on to platforms, when the station reopens, who are fit to travel? Should Northern Rail not be publicizing and making it widely known that people at any station on the trail, deemed unfit through drink will be denied carriage and removed from stations? It would seem common sense to do so.

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    1. Hi Buspilot,

      I too thought the plans would shift the problem elsewhere. They might reenact the same trail by road, which could stretch the resources further; not of Northern Rail nor the British Transport Police but forces on both sides of the West Yorkshire/Greater Manchester boundaries. Hence of course the quote from the forum post you republished:

      “Assuming they can’t find a pub to serve them (which is unlikely) they’ll go to the co-op and get a crate of tins to consume either on the station or sitting on somebody’s garden wall. And won’t have access to any toilet facilities, so will end up improvising.”

      Which is also exacerbated by council cutbacks, forcing the closure of public toilets. At least in pubs, staffed stations and aboard trains, they can relieve themselves in a more socially acceptable way.

      Regarding the consumption of alcohol on the UK rail network, opened cans or bottles of alcoholic drinks cannot be consumed on platforms and may be confiscated. However, this can only be enforced on staffed stations like Huddersfield, Stalybridge, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Victoria. On Marsden and Slaithwaite stations, less so as both are unstaffed stations and (to the best of my knowledge) lack CCTV surveillance.

      There was a franchise condition inherited from the predecessor’s franchise which sanctioned the installation of CCTV cameras at all stations. This wasn’t honoured by the previous holders, and development seems to be piecemeal with present company. Therefore, I totally agree with the paragraph from the same forum post:

      “And that is where I see the solution to this problem. As much as the residents of Marsden might like to think otherwise, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, the Ale Trail is here to stay. So their efforts would be better used in campaigning for infrastructure to be upgraded to cope with the numbers of visitors. Let’s have more litter bins, let’s have toilets and better waiting facilities at Marsden and Slaithwaite stations. Surely the footfall Marsden is getting justifies sorting out the accessibility issues on the Huddersfield platform? Fix these things to cope with the Ale Trail and the facilities are there for the locals to use in the week.”

      It wouldn’t have been half as bad if British Rail didn’t go through its Bus Shelter Phase, nor close Slaithwaite station in the first place (leading to Metro West Yorkshire’s 1982 reopening)!

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

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  2. To continue, here is another article I have written on another forum

    Perhaps living abroad and being a frequent visitor to the UK and Stalybridge in particular, gives me a different view and perspective on this “problem” than to you who live there and view it differently. Maybe you need to take a step back, view all the comments made and not just be dismissive.

    I have seen a few isolated problems at Stalybridge, never with people in their late teens/20s, but groups in their 30s/40s. Never seen a problem at Greenfield.

    The only real problem behavior I have experienced on the Ale Trail was from a group of off duty police officers from the Eastern side of the hills, about 18 months ago.

    However, I am known to drink lager on a regular basis in my home country, which is what is served here. There are some lagers that I will not drink ( they do not all taste the same, to kill off another myth), just as if the real ales on sale in the UK are not to my liking, I will drink lager.

    I have a problem with turning up at UK airport at 4am, finding Brits throwing drinks down their necks at that time in the morning and becoming a problem for the airport, gate staff and cabin crew on their flight. Yes, there are also fancy dressed stag and hen parties to contend with, yet we fly them, without all these blanket bans and only a modicum of commotion and refusals to fly, day after day. We don’t stop selling and deprive all passengers of alcoholic drinks (or types) just because of a few idiots. We simply don’t serve them.

    Remember the owners of the West riding and Stalybridge Buffet Bar are one and the same.
    They have a micro brewery at The Sportsman in Huddersfield, just a few minutes from the station, as they are now pointing out, where this ban does not exist. They sell all their “home brews” at all three outlets. It is a matter of profit for them to support this ban.

    I have been drinking in Witherspoons more and more when I come to Stalybridge and this encourages me to spend more time there instead of what is now becoming an expensive Buffet Bar for a pint in the North West..

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    1. Hello again Buspilot,

      I’ve found the The Society Rooms or The Ash Tree [Wetherspoons] a more regular place to have a few scoops before and, sometimes, after seeing The Mighty Stalybridge Celtic. I still call in the Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar, but I have shown more discretion to my visits such as calling outside the ‘peak times’ on the Saturdays or on one of the other six days per week in the Gregorian calendar. I have called in on odd occasions, but timed my approaches to the bar to avoid crowds thanks to prior knowledge of the rail timetable (and of course to get served as quickly as possible).

      The only problems I’ve had with Rail Ale Trail Saturdays? Trying not to spill my pint whilst negotiating busy approaches to the bar or rooms within the Buffet Bar. This not only due to the crowds but also the plastic glasses (worse if they are the flimsier ones).

      Perhaps upgrading Marsden and Slaithwaite stations to a similar standard as Ashton-under-Lyne and/or Greenfield stations ought to be considered. Heck, even reopen ticket offices and, whilst they are at it, make the footbridges DDA compliant!

      Close to The Society Rooms, The Millpond [Armentieres Square] has started doing real ale at a ‘Spoons-esque price. The choice isn’t as exhaustive, but it is served in proper pint pots!

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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      1. I’d like to comment on what Buspilot and his anonymous correspondent from somewhere near Slaithwaite have to say on the subject. A long post, but then I’m replying to an equally long post from Buspilot.
        There seem to be a small number of standard arguments from people who think nothing can be done about the problems associated with the ale trail:
        • “It’s only a small minority who cause trouble.” It may well be a small minority, but that small minority have an impact out of all proportion to their numbers.
        • “People who are complaining are hostile to incomers and visitors.” In fact, some of the people looking for solutions are active in initiatives to try to develop tourism in the valley.
        • “It brings trade to the pubs, therefore no-one should complain because it’s a price worth paying.” The people paying the price are not the ones getting the benefits of the ale trail.
        • “I did the ale trail and never saw any trouble”. Lucky you. But don’t deny it happens, because it does. You need only ask any train driver or conductor, or anyone living in Station Road Marsden.
        None of which addresses the problem, other than to try to make out there isn’t a problem. There is. In fact there are a range of problems.
        • Behaviour on trains
        • Behaviour on stations
        • Safety on stations
        • Behaviour in residential areas
        It’s also quite common for people to criticise complainants on the basis that they want the ale trail stopped. As far as I am aware, and my knowledge is as a resident and passenger who has been involved in several of the meetings which have taken place, no-one has said they want the ale trail stopped. They just want to be able to live their lives and use the trains without having to put up with antisocial behaviour, which seems a very modest aspiration and not one to be disparaged.
        There’s no single solution, but the pubs and (at long last) the police deserve credit for acknowledging there’s a problem and coming up with initiatives which might make a difference.
        Whether the “lager ban” will have the desired impact is quite another question. It’s about the pubs trying to market themselves as a real ale trail rather than the binge drinking trail it has become. Let’s give it a chance before writing it off in advance as a failure. It’s not the only action being taken.
        I happen to live close to Slaithwaite station, and it’s about time someone contradicted some of what Buspilot and his correspondent have said.
        “I attended a public meeting, held in Slaithwaite, a few months ago which was attended by the police (West Yorkshire and BTP), local councillors, the local MP and a representative of Northern who didn’t do himself any favours – he turned up late and proceeded to be more interested in his laptop than listening to questions that were put to him, and even less interested in any suggestion that involved Northern doing something.”
        “It was notable that almost all of the public who were present were from Marsden. My perception as somebody from Slaithwaite’s neighbouring village who spends quite a lot of time there is that the Ale Trail is generally good natured within the village. Most in Slaithwaite (with the notable exception of a couple of NIMBYs who bought a property near the station without doing their research properly, and got a shock on the Saturday after they moved in) appreciate the extra trade that comes into the village and aren’t really inconvenienced by it.”
        I was at that public meeting. I agree with his impressions of Northern Rail’s representative at that meeting. I can see why Buspilot’s friend concluded that most of the attendees were from Marsden, because most of those who spoke at the meeting were complaining about incidents in Marsden. Nevertheless, there were a lot of people from Slaithwaite at the meeting. Many of the Slaithwaite residents and passengers concerned about the impact of the ale trail had already been involved in or represented in four previous meetings (which Buspilot’s friend probably wouldn’t have known about) by Friends of Slaithwaite Station. Indeed, it was Friends of Slaithwaite Station who initiated community involvement into discussions about managing the impact of the ale trail.
        Calling people NIMBYs does Buspilot’s friend no credit at all. If you move to a house next to a railway station, you expect passengers to come and go and accept that there might be a certain amount of noise from passengers arriving and departing. What you don’t expect is for the station car park to be full of binge drinkers (some of whom bring their own alcohol and don’t even wander down to the pubs, others buy rounds in the pubs and bring their drinks back up to the station), who then proceed to urinate in public or on their property. That’s how it was last summer, every Saturday. I challenge Buspilot and his friend to name another station which is full of binge drinkers every Saturday afternoon. It’s not being a NIMBY to object to antisocial behaviour. NIMBY implies that whatever they are objecting to would be ok if is affected someone else’s back yard instead.
        If anything, it’s Buspilot’s friend who is the NIMBY. Because it doesn’t affect him where he lives, it’s no concern of his that it affects someone else. Not In My Back Yard, but ok if it’s in someone else’s.
        I don’t totally disagree with Buspilot, but the actions he proposes are unrealistic. A group of drunks denied carriage on a train at Slaithwaite or Marsden is a group displaced back into the villages, to become someone else’s problem. A group of drunks denied carriage at Huddersfield, Stalybridge or any other large town is much less of a problem, as the man from the BTP pointed out at a recent ale trail meeting.
        It would be great to see facilities improved at Marsden and Slaithwaite stations, but no-one with any money (Northern Rail, Network Rail, the DfT, Kirklees Council, Metro) is willing to consider this. Possibly with electrification of the route we might get disabled access at Marsden, longer platforms and passenger information screens, but that’s as much as we can expect. Similar sized stations do not generally have toilets, though portaloos every Saturday would be welcome. Indeed, one of the pubs paid for portaloos on the station car park last August bank holiday weekend, but it’s not something that comes cheap.
        I’d agree that Northern Rail are still not taking the problem as seriously as they ought to be doing.
        Kirklees’ Council’s contribution. The public toilets in Slaithwaite and Marsden closed on 1st April this year. The saving: about £5,000 per year.
        And finally, it’s not a big earner for Northern Rail, because only very rarely do they attempt to collect fares. Shortage of portable ticket machines, apparently. Just about everyone in Slaithwaite old enough to know what a train is, also knows that most of the time it’s possible to go into Huddersfield on the train without having to pay.

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  3. Hi Douglas,

    Thank you for your comments. Speaking from experience, not as someone who has done the Rail Ale Trail (I would like to do it, but at a less busier time), I’ve seen ‘the small minority who cause trouble’ statement in other walks of life, such as in football matches, demonstrations, or busy shopping centres. Some of which could be trifling, or akin to the incidents described herein, but they reflect badly on us. Be it at the John Smiths Stadium, Slaithwaite station or an IKEA Sale. Therefore, one eejit could spoil the day for most of us.

    Anyone who saw BBC Two’s documentary about the railways would have remembered the episode set in Yorkshire, one which featured the Rail Ale Trail. Though it explained Northern Rail’s reasoning behind its launch, it did show some aspects of the numptiness at Marsden station. The viewpoint behind the Rail Ale Trail didn’t take the multi-faceted view over the extra revenue pubs gained. There was no ‘Down With This Sort Of Thing’ from the locals.

    And of course, the solution needs to be multi-faceted, one which doesn’t involve the curtailment or abolition of the Rail Ale Trail. The lager ban may be a good idea to placate the real ale types, but some may circumvent this by bringing their own cans of lager. (As you may know yourself, you can drink alcohol on a scheduled rail service outside the Transport for London boundary, though restrictions may be imposed on certain trains at certain times, i.e. before and after football fixtures).

    Instead of turning drunks away at unstaffed stations (unrealistic compared with say at Huddersfield and Stalybridge), wouldn’t it be better to have manned ticket barriers on Saturdays at Marsden and Slaithwaite stations? On the Metrolink, Etihad Campus and Old Trafford stations have provision for this, though I doubt as if we should go towards building permanent queueing pens for use 40 or so days in the year.

    I for one isn’t in favour of abolishing the Rail Ale Trail. We cannot allow the actions of some people to mar the enjoyment of the trail for persons wishing to do the full run properly. And of course, other days are available for doing the Rail Ale Trail besides Saturdays.

    Warmly,

    Stuart.

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  4. ‘The Real Ale Trail was created following a tv programme by Oz Clarke and James May…’. Er…..no, the idea of the ‘real ale trail’ was created by myself in an article in The Independent, 12 December, 1988, ‘Trains pass so close, your drink rocks gently in the glass’.

    I’d b grateful if you would amend your blog accordingly.

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      1. Stuart… thank you. Interesting blog, like your eye for the ‘significant insignificant’ eg the ‘rare’ Wimpy bar in Huddersfield. Intend to do the Huddersfield/M/c bus this week.

        Regards,

        Stephen.

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  5. Hi Stephen,

    Many thanks for your comments. The 184’s a great route and – without hesitation – I recommend taking your position on the top deck to get the best views. It takes in part of one of several turnpike roads built by John ‘Blind Jack of Knaresborough’ Metcalf. You may have come across his works on this blog, the Wikipedia entry, or via an excellent book with a foreword by David Blunkett.

    For future reference, the 528 [Yorkshire Tiger] route from Rochdale to Halifax is another good route, especially the section between Ripponden and Littleborough which crosses Blackstone Edge.

    Bye for now,

    Stuart.

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    1. Thank you Stuart….I’m not especially a bus person, but have written a ‘post it note’ to remind me to try the 528 soon. One I sometimes take is the 901 (Hudds to Hebden Bridge)…. in the recent good weather I got off at the summit, which is a few minutes from the Pennine Way….then walked north along it to Todmorden, passing Gaddings Dam (which has England’s highest beach, 728 ft above sea level….its a proper beach….would be a good photo for your blog !)….took about 1hr 45 mins to reach Todmorden centre (or coming the other way 30 mins+ tough climb up from Tod.) The 528 (coming up from Littleborough) must also pass the Pennine Way, near this point (by the White House pub). regards s

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