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Friday 8 May 2009

Station Sellout – Take 5

One thing is as true about Crewe station as it was forty years ago: the trains themselves get renewed, but the station remains a patchwork, and mainly a good hundred years old. We’re now on the third generation of trains since the electric railway arrived, yet most of the station’s fabric is pre-World War 1. And the exposed breeze block of the 1960s concourse not only looks tatty, but demonstrates a mindset of doing work on the cheap.

So when, in early 2007, Network Rail (NR) held an exhibition at the Alex Stadium, to showcase the “Crewe Rail Gateway”, it looked as if real improvements were at last on the way. There was to be a new concourse, the car park would be doubled in size (and moved to remove the need for users to make a frontal assault on Nantwich Road to reach it), and the unsightly and leaking overall roof structures would go. The roof work had already been completed on Platform 12, at the West side of the station, and new canopies and lighting had been installed.

To complete the refurbishment could only be a good thing – it would benefit businesses and residents in the Nantwich Road area, give easier access to the station for those arriving by car, and be a good advert for Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) who by now had a growing campus in the area close to the station. Also, arriving by bus would be better, with stops opposite the station – rather than one tucked away by the roundabout.

Then the critics started. Most were the usual suspects: those who write in to the local paper, any paper, when something new is proposed. The scheme was a “disgrace”, it was bad for taxi drivers, motorists, bus passengers, pedestrians, and anyone else. Much of the criticism was petty or ill-informed, and the thought entered that it might be unhelpful. But there was no suggestion that the work already completed on Platform 12 would not continue across the rest of the station – in any case, the state of much of the overall roof had deteriorated to the point where something would have to be done soon.

Then everything went quiet. Until, that is, during a meeting some months later, when an NR representative just happened to mention that the station was to be moved to a greenfield site at Basford. The critics went to ground.

It was a nasty shock. But things were to get nastier still.

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