Preston Bus Station Now Grade II Listed Building

  • Victory for Bus and Architecture Geeks
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  • Cllr Rankin: ‘Very disappointing but not altogether unexpected’
Preston Bus Station, view from Tithe Barn Street
Saved: Preston Bus Station, seen in August 2011.

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.

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6 thoughts on “Preston Bus Station Now Grade II Listed Building

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    1. Hi Mark,

      Make that two! My favoured old route would be the X60 to Blackpool, any one of the North Western Road Car Company, Ribble Motor Services or Lancashire United Transport vehicles would do. So long as it finishes its journey near the site of the Coliseum Bus Station.

      Mine’s a pint of Thwaites’ Wainwright, that over a Samlesbury brewed Boddingtons Bitter any day.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  1. I have mixed views on Preston Bus Station being saved, yes it is unique and has a lot of bus movements in it, and when I go to Preston I always visit it to see what’s there, for example last November I saw the first of the new Preston Bus Volvo B5LH’s on test there unregistered and on trade plates.

    However having said that it is quite tatty in side and always seems to smell, so yes it does need an internal makeover and yes it is probably bigger than it needs to be, also I believe several suicide attempts over the years have occurred with people dropping off the sloping walls of the car park onto the bus concourse.

    So not sure quite what the outcome should be, my preferred one would be a total internal remodel but retaining the external structure, with more retail units inside to bring in a rental income to help with modernisation costs, and also to look at the car parking provision to see if the amount of parking in there is all being used as when I’ve used it in the past, I haven’t used it for a few years now as the Park & Ride in Preston is excellent value and very regular, it has been half empty, so perhaps the first floor of the car park could be used for something else also retail linked.

    I do think though the main issue is possibly the concrete structure rather than anything else and if buses are to attract more passengers then their infrastructure as well as the actual vehicles and price of fares need to be pleasant enough to wait in and a building of this size needs to do more than just be a giant bus terminal and should have other facilities.

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    1. Hi Giles,

      I agree with your second and third paragraphs, obviously so long as: a) the extra retail units add value and respect the 1960s design; and that b) we ensure that incumbent tenants are well catered for. Furthermore, if they demolished Preston bus station, one concern would be the inconvenience of on-street stops, and that alternative sites to the existing one are few and far between.

      Perhaps it should have been built on the easterly part of the railway station where the Fishergate Shopping Centre is, but this would have meant traffic in the city centre holding up journey times. Hence the case for the present site, not only due to city centre traffic but also its proximity to the M6 motorway.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  2. STUART, BIG NEWS FROM CLASSIC NORTH WEST – THEIR EXPANDING TO MANCHESTER FROM OCTOBER 4TH IN NOT JUST A BIG WAY BUT A LONG WAY!

    Red Rocket Express is a new almost non stop express bus service from Blackpool to Manchester, the only stop on route will be at the Trafford Centre. Fares will be £10 return for adults and group/concession discounts will be offered as well. Visit http://www.redrocketexpress.co.uk for full details.

    As a further heads up, they’ll be using Preston Bus Station from December as they’ll be taking over the 80/1 Fleetwood to Preston service from December and extending it to Blackpool.

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    1. Hi Leeds,

      Excellent news! Not only for cost-conscious Lancastrians but also us bus geeks and romantics who remember the X60/X61 services from Manchester to Blackpool.

      If I’ve got any spare time, I shall see if I can get a few shots of the Red Rocket Express in action.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

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