For long, St Ives and Newquay have been Cornwall’s most popular coastal resorts and, naturally, have been subject to the heavy road traffic that entails. In January 1977, British Rail (BR) unveiled a plan to tackle the car congestion which was unleashed on St Ives every summer; this coincided with the centenary year of the branch line to the town. A £174,000 (£1,150,000 at 2021 prices) “park-and-ride” scheme was devised, which was planned to involve the construction of a 600-space car park at Lelant, under ½-mile south of the existing station there, in addition to a single platform surface and waiting shelter. The intention was for families to park at the facility at Lelant and travel by train into St Ives, rather than driving all the way. It was proposed that one car load of people could park at Lelant and enjoy a return trip to St Ives for £0.50 (£3.31 at 2021 prices). A service interval of every twenty minutes was envisaged, and the estimated expenditure was stated to be as follows:
£24,000 for a car park
- £9,000 for the station platform
- £35,000 for new passing loop on the line
- £116,000 for signalling alterations
- £56,000 of annual operating costs (22-week season)
(ref: The West Briton and Royal Cornwall Gazette, Thursday, 27th January 1977)
Revenue over a 22-week season was estimated to be £97,000 and it was suggested that any profits could be used to reduce the subsidy given to the branch line by the Ministry of Transport.
The park-and-ride station — named “Lelant Saltings” — was opened on 27th May 1978, being positioned about ⅔-mile north of St Erth. A concrete platform was commissioned on the western side of the single-track branch line, which was capable of accommodating trains of four carriages in length. No waiting shelter was provided, nor any platform lighting, the latter of which prevented late evening trains. The car park had a 400-vehicle capacity from the outset, rather than the 600 of the original plans, and was upon land formerly in use as a refuse tip. The return fare to St Ives was £0.60.
Lelant Saltings’ first season — summer 1978 — was a huge success. The Cornwall Traffic Committee recorded 34,812 cars using the park-and-ride facility, and 137,000 passengers used the train. Trains initially started as three-vehicle formations, but were increased to four during the season. Passenger numbers were envisaged to increase and, for the 1979 season, upgrades to the site were proposed. These included the extension of the platform to accommodate six-car trains and increasing the car park’s capacity by 200 spaces. The latter would be wholly funded by Penwith Council and involve filling in a gully beside the railway embankment and establishing a grass-covered extension. The price of the park-and-ride was also set to increase from £0.60 to £1, and the scheme would include widening the platform at St Ives. (ref: The West Briton and Royal Cornwall Gazette, Thursday, 30th November 1978).
In 1982, 64,000 passengers were recorded as using the park-and-ride at Lelant Saltings. This was down considerably from the 1978 numbers, but reportedly this decline was attributed to the recession of the time, which had badly hit holiday trade in the West Country.
In February 2017, £5.4 million of funding was secured for a transport hub at St Erth. This aimed to provide an interchange between trains, buses, and cars, and included a park-and-ride facility for the St Ives branch line. Ultimately, this would replace the existing set-up at Lelant Saltings and boast a much larger car park offering 516 spaces. The bay platform at St Erth was widened and resurfaced in May 2019, as part of the works, and the new park-and-ride facility at that station came into use on Saturday, 1st of the following month. The park-and-ride at Lelant Saltings was closed, but the platform retained the most basic of services; just one train daily in either direction. The relocation of the park-and-ride to St Erth resulted in an improved service for both Lelant and Carbis Bay stations, the former of which had witnessed a reduction in trains calling as a result of the opening of the platform at Lelant Saltings in 1978.
11th June 1987
The River Hayle is on the right of this north eastward view from the sole prefabricated concrete platform; the car park is visible on the left. The platform at Lelant is about another 700-yards in the distance, beyond the bend in the line.
© David Glasspool