Trivia: Which major UK town has the least direct route from London?

S&CLER

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I was wondering which sizeable town has the least direct rail route from London. I thought of Cheltenham, Gloucester, Hereford and maybe some of the big towns in the Pennines. If I'm not mistaken the shortest route from London to Cheltenham was via High Wycombe, Oxford, Kingham and Andoversford. But on the whole, since the GW cut-offs were built before 1914, most main lines from London have been reasonably direct, with nothing like the detour via Dijon that used to lengthen the route from Paris to Lyon before the LGV was built.
 
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Shimbleshanks

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Stretching the definition of 'major town', I once worked out that Pwllheli has the slowest rail service from London of anywhere in Wales, England or lowland Scotland. However, it is possible to reduce the approx 6h 30min journey time by taking a fast(ish) train from Euston to Bangor and bus from there to Pwllheli.
 

yoyothehobo

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If we are doing places that dont have a direct service then Workington or Whitehaven must be up there, maybe Barrow-in-Furness?
 

S&CLER

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By "major town" I was thinking of anywhere with a population of 50,000 or more; and including places without a direct service from London; circuitousness as excess of rail distance over straight line.
 

Taunton

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The most circuitous seems to have always been Cheltenham. Even the GWR's fastest train "The Cheltenham Flyer", was a complete misnomer as the speed run was between Swindon and Paddington. Out of Cheltenham it was hauled by a tank engine to Gloucester in exactly the opposite direction to London; I think after an hour's travel it was no nearer in a straight line towards London than when it started.

But the most difficult place to get to from London is undoubtedly Workington/Whitehaven in West Cumbria. No main rail service, but there's no airport either, and it's a huge drive. The nearest practical rail station is Penrith, from where a taxi will set you back the best part of £100. It's far more straightforward to get from London to the main Scottish cities.

Colleague in London asked me what was the nearest airport to Workington. I said Isle of Man :) (which is true; with binoculars you can see aircraft approaching it).
 

roadierway77

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I'm thinking Ayr, or perhaps Stockton. For Ayr you'd need to go right into Glasgow and back out again. For Stockton you'd need to change at Darlington and again at Middlesbrough.
 
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By "major town" I was thinking of anywhere with a population of 50,000 or more; and including places without a direct service from London; circuitousness as excess of rail distance over straight line.
Aberdeen to London is 523mi 52ch by rail, vs 396mi as the crow flies, so the rail route is 32% longer than a straight line would be.

aberdeen to london.png
 

Old Yard Dog

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Whitby to anywhere to its south is indirect. Connections at Middlesbrough (and by bus at Pickering) used to be awful but I haven't checked recently. The quickest way out is often a bus to Scarborough, Malton or York.
 
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jfisher21

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Did some work near Leominster once, quickest rail route was actually London - Crewe - Leominster on a Monday morning. Travelling home was a detour to Newport in Wales!
 

JB_B

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If you're measuring the ratio of the distance by national rail to the straight line distance to the nearest London Terminal then the highest ratios are found for stations in London ( Hoxton into Old Street is the highest at ~6 x ).

The next highest are on the Far North line ( Wick->Kings Cross ~1.5 x ) and then on the the Heart of Wales ( Llandovery->Paddington also ~1.5 x).

Assuming that Wick (pop ~7K) doesn't count as "large town" then...

Population >10K outside London: Buxton->Euston, Ludlow->Paddington and Bury St Edmunds->Liverpool Street all manage very close to 1.4 x.

I think the first >100K population town outside London is Cheltenham->Paddington at ~1.38 x.

(These ratios are estimated by comparing the routeing guide data distances to the NATPAN NE location data - neither of those are necessarily fully accurate.)
 

tigerroar

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I do wonder why anyone would choose to go from Reading to London Waterloo when it's a little over 20 mins to Paddington yet almost an hour longer that way.
 

181

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I do wonder why anyone would choose to go from Reading to London Waterloo when it's a little over 20 mins to Paddington yet almost an hour longer that way.
Because if you are a student living in South London, Reading to Clapham Junction is a very attractive option. And can travel on a "not via London" ticket
Reading to Clapham Jct. will indeed be a sensible option for quite a lot of journeys. I did the whole distance into Waterloo once or twice to connect with Eurostar when it ran from there, and once more recently because it was a lot cheaper -- my destination was near Waterloo, so the time penalty was only about half an hour, and I needed to be there at a time that meant I could use an off-peak ticket to Waterloo but would have needed a peak one to go via Paddington.
 

alangla

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I'm thinking Ayr, or perhaps Stockton. For Ayr you'd need to go right into Glasgow and back out again. For Stockton you'd need to change at Darlington and again at Middlesbrough.
Could go 18 minutes up the line to Hartlepool then Grand Central (in normal times, obviously)
 

Old Yard Dog

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Another one, where through ticketing is available would be Douglas, IOM.
Douglas doesn't count as the Isle of Man is not part of the UK (and the IOM was never in the EU). It is a self governing British Crown Dependency, like Jersey and Guernsey. Moreover the route from Douglas to London via ferry to Liverpool or Heysham, then rail to Euston, may be slow, but it is reasonably direct.

Belfast is more interesting. To maximize the use of rail, you would need to sail from Belfast or preferably Larne to Cairnryan, then have to find a bus or taxi link to Stranraer, Ayr or Glasgow Central stations. Whichever you choose it's a long way around. But coach to Glasgow and train to Euston may still quicker than the more "direct" route using the 8.5 hour ferry crossing to Birkenhead, then a taxi to Lime Street or the 15 min walk to Hamilton Square. Has anybody done a time comparison? The Belfast - Birkenhead ferry is not as direct as it might be as it needs to sail north east up Belfast Lough and then sail around the Isle of Man.

Train to Dublin, ferry to Holyhead and train to Euston is another option which might beat both on time.
 
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philthetube

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I was wondering which sizeable town has the least direct rail route from London. I thought of Cheltenham, Gloucester, Hereford and maybe some of the big towns in the Pennines. If I'm not mistaken the shortest route from London to Cheltenham was via High Wycombe, Oxford, Kingham and Andoversford. But on the whole, since the GW cut-offs were built before 1914, most main lines from London have been reasonably direct, with nothing like the detour via Dijon that used to lengthen the route from Paris to Lyon before the LGV was built.
Douglas doesn't count as the Isle of Man is not part of the UK (and the IOM was never in the EU). It is a self governing British Crown Dependency, like Jersey and Guernsey. Moreover the route from Douglas to London via ferry to Liverpool or Heysham, then rail to Euston, may be slow, but it is reasonably direct.
don't see any mention of U.K. or E.U by the op?
 

bearhugger

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For Stockton you'd need to change at Darlington and again at Middlesbrough.
Just to clarify, most if not all trains that stop at Stockton nowadays go through to Middlesbrough and not Darlington, so a change at Middlesbrough or Thornaby first then at Darlington if you use Northern. If you use TransPennine Express then York is probably the next place to change. I don't think any London services stop at Thirsk or Northallerton but there's probably an odd service to prove me wrong.
Grand Central services from Sunderland don't stop at Stockton but stop at Eaglescliffe.
 
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