- Victory for Bus and Architecture Geeks
- Euston Arch of the Motorway Age saved from possible demolition
- Cllr Rankin: ‘Very disappointing but not altogether unexpected’
If you’ve spent the best part of your formative years en route to Blackpool or Morecambe, there’s every chance you would have come across what was Britain’s biggest bus station. For many bus and coach fanatics, it is probably their equivalent to Crewe or Birmingham New Street railway stations.
This dinnertime, it was announced that Preston Bus Station has gained Grade II Listed Building Status. The recent listing made by Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey, places the Tithe Barn Street terminus alongside other Modernist buildings like the Post Office Tower, Oxford Road Railway Station and the CIS Building. It also sits alongside London’s Victoria Coach Station, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners’ 1932 Art Deco masterpiece.
Today’s listing was met with delight among campaigners of the Save Preston Bus Station. Head of the campaign team John Wilson said: ‘It’s fantastic news but it is only the tip of the iceberg really’. However, the leader of Preston City Council said: ‘It is very disappointing but not altogether unexpected’.
Preston Central Bus Station opened on the 22nd October 1969, replacing smaller facilities elsewhere in the town centre. It enabled passengers of both Ribble Motor Services and Borough of Preston Transport buses to alight and board in one location. With 80 stands, multi storey car parking and a dedicated taxi rank with shelter, it was the biggest bus station in Britain. It also cemented Preston’s reputation as a changeover point for Anglo-Scottish coach routes and seaside resorts on the Lancashire coast.
Given the reduction in bus patronage and fewer coaches, not all of its 80 stands are in use. Personal security has been cited as an issue among passengers, leading to the closure of its subways at certain times and the addition of ground level crossings. Some improvements, such as the positioning of new seating and real time information displays seem to be insensitive to the bus station’s late-1960s design.
Even so, passenger accommodation at Preston bus station is more generous than post-1969 termini seen in Lancashire. Though with improved cover, Lancaster’s bus station (built in 2001) is too small with egress between stands too narrow and inadequate seating areas. Chorley’s is an improvement on the former Ribble bus station occupied by J.D. Wetherspoon. It’s ambience is airy and offers good pedestrian access to its railway station. Burnley’s, though built to a similar design as Chorley’s, is an improvement on the previous terminal. However, none of the three have sufficient car parking provision nearby, which stymies any development of potential Park and Ride services.
Instead of proposing its demolition or re-cladding it into something which will date faster than a software update, now is the time to cherish its late 1960s nature. Give it the tender loving care which the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth and the Multi Storey Car Park in Gateshead was denied. All it takes is a bit of imagination to restore its late 1960s air, even with digital displays detailing the next 41 to Garstang. Plus they ought to restore the dual analogue and digital clocks, and make sure the Transport font is more consistent than at present.
Today, an opportunity to save an exemplar of late 1960s transport architecture was made. Preston Central Bus Station is a landmark which symbolises both the optimism of the 1960s and a transitional period of the UK bus industry. One which by the time of its opening moved towards One Man Operation, the dawn of the National Bus Company, Passenger Transport Executives and competition from its closest rival, the private car.
As an enthusiast and a regular bus user, I am delighted. Having used other bus stations within the Lancashire boundary, I doubt as if a future Preston bus station would have the same good facilities as its present day one. Now’s the time to get it back to its best!
S.V., 23 September 2013.