Here's an interesting ("interesting") fact for you: Telford got its first stretch of motorway in 1975. It got its second stretch, which took it to the M6, in 1983. That's a brand new, six lanes of tarmac, seventy mile an hour road bulldozed across the countryside to connect the New Town with the motorway network. Meanwhile it got its railway station, Telford Central, in...1986. Even though the Shrewsbury-Wolverhampton line had been there since 1849, so all they had to do was whack a couple of platforms down and they were done.
The fact is, Telford isn't really interested in trains. It was part of the third wave of New Towns, conceived in the sixties then largely built in the seventies, and the prevailing thought at that time was that everyone would have a car. Everyone. There was no need to build a railway station because you had that handy motorway.
Even when they did build it, the emphasis was very much on "get here by car and go somewhere else" rather than "welcoming gateway to the town". Telford Central is built within a triangle formed by three major roads - the M54, the A5, and the A442, a dual carriageway spine that runs north-south through Telford. It's a small ticket office and waiting room, combined with a big car park. There are no facilities, unless you count a Beefeater and Premier Inn off to one side, and there's no feeling of arrival.
I wandered over from the westbound platform to the station building in the hope of seeing something inspirational. There were some transport policemen having a chat, an empty bus shelter, a woman waiting impatiently. The transport policemen wandered off to their van parked to the side. The woman was picked up by a cab. Then the station was silent again. It didn't feel right.
I was immediately cheered by an old Co-operative sign, embedded into the wall, a beautiful piece of tiling. Admittedly, the building it was in was now a pizza parlour, but still, it was the first bit of history I'd seen since I'd got off the train. Beyond that was Oakengates town centre, a couple of narrow streets snaking up the hill and lined with a variety of pubs and shops.
Oakengates will never be mistaken for Hampstead or Chiswick. Half its shops were shut; there were members of staff dangling out the front doors of Ladbrokes and the Eastern European supermarket smoking fags. One of the pubs was still urging us to support England in the Euros. It was grubby and down at heel.