A project to rejuvenate Lowestoft Railway Station has reached a milestone with completion of restoration work to buildings on the north-eastern corner, enabling the creation of a new public exhibition space.
Over the past year, the former station Parcels Office has been completely restored. Works included the installation of refurbished doors and windows, a brand-new double sash window, reclaimed flooring, new ceiling, electrics and heating. Due to officially open later this Summer, the new facility will be able to host various events including exhibitions, meetings, craft, antique and local produce fairs, along with a host of other community and rail-related activities. Three pairs of external doors which had been permanently closed for more than three decades have also been replaced enabling routes connecting with the town centre to be reopened during events.
In tandem with the Parcels Office scheme and in conjunction with train operator Greater Anglia, the station was painted in heritage painting colours, new station signage and information displays were installed, and specially commissioned Victorian style lighting housing LED lamps has replaced dated fixtures. Work was also undertaken to clear and fence off land adjacent to the site, a new short-stay car park was created, and repairs were undertaken to the platforms allowing the station to receive rail tours.
Principle funding for the station improvements has come from the Railway Heritage Trust and the Department for Transport’s Designated Community Rail Development Fund – administered by the Association of Community Rail Partnerships, with further contributions from both the East Suffolk Lines and Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnerships.
A further initiative between Network Rail, the Railway Heritage Trust and the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership has seen rotten hoardings around the former station buffet building replaced, helping to cosmetically improve the site, whilst further development opportunities are explored.
Andy Savage, Executive Director of the Railway Heritage Trust said; “The RHT has been delighted to sponsor these works on Network Rail’s most easterly station. The creation of new community spaces in former empty areas is superb and we are delighted at how the project has been expanded to cover the whole appearance of the station, including the empty former buffet building, which is transformed by the new boarding and no longer such a blot on the town centre. We look forward to being able to support the full restoration of that building in the near future.”
For many years much of the station appeared semi-derelict, with unused buildings boarded up and a drab colour scheme making the site seem unwelcoming and unloved. In 2016 the East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership opened a volunteer run community meeting room and visitor information point. The current project was devised shortly afterwards with provisional funding awarded in 2017, and with the help of Greater Anglia, a Community Interest Company was set up to obtain the lease on the former Parcels Office.
Throughout, the project has sought to work with local companies and tradesmen on the construction; intricate restoration works were undertaken by Oulton Broad based MS Oakes Ltd whose craftsmen re-created the three large arched concourse doors in keeping with their original design and built a brand-new sash window for the station concourse. More sash windows around the site and an industrial sliding door were also restored to working order with the entire Parcels Office floor levelled and replaced with authentic reclaimed timber.
Community Rail Development Officer Martin Halliday, who devised the initial plans for the station and has managed the project throughout said; “From the outset we have sought to improve and restore the station, find new use for redundant space and cherish the Victorian architecture which has survived against all odds. We are hugely grateful to our funding partners, station staff, volunteers, contractors and Greater Anglia. Most importantly we wish to thank the Railway Heritage Trust for its support and guidance throughout the project, which has enabled a small team of local craftsmen to undertake some superb restoration work. We look forward to opening the new facilities and continue to work towards further improvements across the wider station site.”
Brian Barnsley, Senior Operations Manager at the Association of Community Rail Partnerships said; “The partners of the Designated Community Rail Development Fund were delighted to support the Lowestoft Central project. The rehabilitation of disused and underused station buildings is a priority of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships and the fund are delighted this exciting project has reached yet another significant milestone.”
Chairman of the East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership, Aaron Taffera added; “Lowestoft Station is one of the best located transport hubs in the UK and the project has already delivered a much improved first impression, so important to those visiting Lowestoft. The new facilities being created will further enhance the project aims, including the creation of an exciting new community space at the very heart of the town.”
Alan Neville, Greater Anglia’s Community and Customer Engagement Manager said; “We were very pleased to support this superb initiative from the outset, which has seen major improvements at Lowestoft including new lighting and colour schemes in keeping with the site’s heritage, replacement of the concourse doors and the full restoration of the former Parcels Office which is currently being transformed into an exciting new community facility.”
The project is currently working with Lowestoft in Bloom to install a number of new floral displays in time for the summer season and is also in discussions with local transport suppliers to improve onward travel information at the site.
Over the past few months work has also been taking place to create a brand-new freight facility in the former goods yard and although this scheme is unconnected with the station project, it is helping to regenerate a vast area of land. A £60million Wherry Lines re-signalling project is currently being undertaken by Network Rail with a brand-new fleet of trains being introduced by Greater Anglia later this year.
Lowestoft Railway Station dates back more than 170 years and survived two World Wars along with attempts to relocate it further west. Serving around 450,000 people each year, the station is one of the best sited in the entire UK railway network with its location within the town centre itself, close to the harbour and South Beach.
Between 1903 and 1970 the station was called Lowestoft Central and due to its location and prominence within the town, this was the name adopted by the project for its efforts to both restore and introduce new facilities to the site.