£2m station re-vamp hits the buffers

A £2 MILLION transformation of Bolton's run-down train station has been scrapped.

There were ambitious plans to improve the booking hall, concourse, platforms, toilets, waiting rooms and car park.

But transport chiefs say they are too expensive.

The decision has been met with anger by business leaders, train passengers and councillors in Bolton.

"This is a massive mistake," said Paul Norris, president of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce's Bolton Executive.

"The station, which is one of the main gateways into Bolton, is a disgrace.

"I didn't think the planned refurbishment went far enough, but I cannot believe it is going to be left as it is. It gives completely the wrong impression about Bolton.

"A town of this size, with the vibrant economy that it has, along with the investment plans for the future, deserves much better. I am very angry."

The train station buildings, at the junction of Newport Street and Trinity Street, opened in March 1987 and replaced 80-year-old buildings - although the original platform buildings remain below.

Proposals to carry out major work at the station were unveiled three years ago, along with plans to rework the bus interchange. The proposed facilities were dubbed the Bolton Interchange.

The £4 million scheme included the construction of a glass-fronted travel centre to replace the drab brick facia of the station, new waiting rooms, toilets, large information screens and a car park extension, doubling its size.

The clock tower, which stands outside the station, was also in line for repair and plans were drawn up to illuminate it with floodlights.

The cost of the work was to be jointly funded by Bolton Council, Greater Manchester Public Transport Executive (GMPTE), Network Rail and the previous franchise holder for the Greater Manchester area, First Northwestern - now replaced by Northern Rail.

But today, transport bosses admitted work on the railway station has been put on hold.

A spokesman for GMPTE said: "Initial design works for the concourse, platform and car parks were undertaken last year. However, these have not been progressed because GMPTE and Bolton Council were concerned about escalating costs.

"But more than £2 million has still been spent on a major refurbishment of the Bolton Interchange area.

"Works to upgrade the rail overbridge, including refurbishing the lifts and enhanced lighting, floor improvements, handrails and redecoration, were completed last year.

"The bus station and taxi rank have also been remodelled, providing passengers with a modern, comfortable and safe environment and offering improved links to the town centre and rail station.

"GMPTE is a publicly-funded organisation and we have to ensure that we are spending tax payers' money wisely.

"We remain committed to continuing to improve the facilities at Bolton Interchange and are developing new proposals with our partners.

"These include plans to modernise the booking hall, subject to funding being approved."

Local businessman Phil Ogden, of design and marketing company Cube3 Media ion Breightmet Street, said: "The train station is the first point of contact for business visitors and tourists to Bolton.

"At a time when Bolton has made such significant strides to improve its branding and marketing, we feel that the decision is a real missed opportunity to enhance the town's image."

The decision has also been criticised by politicians in Bolton.

Labour councillor Nick Peel, a representative for Bolton on the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority (GMPTA), said: "The waiting facilities are a disgrace and the toilets are horrible. I went in them the other day and I wish I hadn't.

"The station is definitely in need of a revamp and new plans are being drawn up which will, hopefully, cut the original cost."

Liberal Democrat councillor David Wilkinson said: "Bolton station is one of the busiest in Greater Manchester and it needs a revamp because we cannot encourage people to use the trains unless we are giving them a good environment. The facilities are just not good enough for this day and age."

A spokesman for Bolton Council said: "A range of work has been carried out to the bus and train station by the council and GMPTE.

"The stairways and pedestrian overbridge now feature new flooring, ceiling, railings and signing.

"A new lighting system runs the length of the pedestrian walkway and the lifts are now cleaner and quicker.

"Later this year, we are going to install a new canopy outside the ticketing office to provide a sheltered walkway between the bus shelter and ticketing office.

"Plans to further improve the station have shown not to be cost-effective at this stage."

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