Station regeneration in the North
Significant improvements can be made to rail stations for relatively small amounts of money according to Rail North’s Director, David Hoggarth.
Rail North is the new Leeds-based devolved organisation which well help to manage the new Northern and Trans Pennine rail franchises from April.
“The station’s importance in connecting the wider community with regeneration is often under estimated. There are around 500 stations in the North but integration has not worked well to date. £55m has been set aside for station investment under the two new franchise agreements but that will not be enough for the kind of transformation we would like to see. There is a need to bring in other investment,” he stressed.
Hoggarth outlined three case studies of low cost station regeneration schemes in the North that had brought benefits to the wider community.
“Burnley in East Lancashire is a good example: Earnings were down £39 per week in real terms a few years ago, only 100 new houses were built in 2012/13 and the area suffered from out migration. Lancashire County Council put together a £2.3m investment package drawn from many sources. Connectivity was at the centre of the strategy. A new service was put on to Manchester and money was invested in local stations.
“Burnley Manchester Road station was transformed and now has a community centre that was not there before. Rose Grove and Accrington stations have also been improved. Accrington was completely rebuilt as an eco-station.”
Hoggarth said Accrington was not really a station at all but a community facility which boasted a library and other services. It also has a bunker room underneath that serves as a community rail hub and also as a classroom for local schools.
Turning to the Tees Valley Line – which connects Saltburn and Bishop Auckland via Redcar, Middlesbrough and Darlington – Hoggarth said growth patronage had increased 70% over the last 15 years but the stations were run down , uncared for and very basic. They have since been transformed; a new James Cook station had been opened to serve the major hospital in Middlesbrough. At Redcar Central, which 400,000 passengers a year use, £1.2m has been invested in expanding the station area by bringing derelict land back into use. That is quite unusual.
“These were not massive investments: It was just a case of doing a good job with the basics –providing new shelters and information schemes, etc, not multi-million pound schemes. These can have a massive effect if all stations are treated over a wide area.”
Wakefield Kirkgate, once dubbed ‘the worst station in the country’, has been brought back to life. The Grade 2 listed building lay derelict for many years despite seeing an annual passenger throughput of 900,000. The £4m regeneration masterplan was put together by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and involved Wakefield Council, rail operators and other bodies. The transformation has since won the station prestigious awards.
The success has been greatly bolstered by the use of the station offices by the environment charity, Groundwork UK, “who were able to tap into European grants unavailable to others.”
An exclusive report from Landor’s 16th Rail Stations & Property Summit, London, 18th February, 2016