Recently I found myself in Burscough with an hour to kill. While I was waiting, I wandered the mean streets. Burscough is a small but pleasant town, with a pleasant high street of independent butchers and bakers (how long they will survive the presence of a giant Tesco nearby remains to be seen).
A quirk of railway geography has resulted in Burscough being provided with two stations on different lines, and my wanderings led me to the more important of the pair: Burscough Bridge. I had heard there was a café there and thought I might be able to combine coffee with Pacer-watching.
This should be considered very much a bonus station, outside the usual blog remit. For starters, it is not in any way a “limited service” station – in fact it is blessed with a half-hourly service between Southport and Manchester for most of the day. Secondly, I did not arrive or leave by train or official rail replacement bus. Finally, I didn’t get a photo of myself under the station sign (because I forgot, to be honest).
Until a few years ago, Burscough Bridge was a typical small station: unstaffed and run-down, with its buildings boarded up and a graffiti-covered bus shelter offered in its place. Then Lancashire County Council, in conjunction with Northern Rail, decided to throw some money at it, and the result is a much nicer experience for the travelling public.
The original station building, no longer in railway ownership, is still off-limits, but to replace it a smart new building has been opened. As well as providing some proper shelter, a new ticket office has been provided, a welcome development when the trend elsewhere seems to be to continue destaffing stations. Outside the station, the bus “interchange” is really nothing more than a bus stop in the station car park, with a corner so tight that even the 27-seater minibus which turned up had to do a reversing manoeuvre to get round it.
In summary, Burscough Bridge is a lovely station and I approve wholeheartedly, except for one thing: the café.
It looks like funding cutbacks have struck again and the café is a victim. “Until further notice” seems somewhat misleading – it offers a ray of hope that the café may reopen at some point. The completely stripped-out interior told a different story.
I’ll be honest and say I’m glad the ticket office stayed open rather than the café. Surely, though, some enterprising individual could take it over? The station is a railhead for the surrounding small villages, so you have a captive market of commuters. It’s also the nearest station for the Martin Mere Wildfowl Centre (accessible by footpath from the station) so there must be some tourist traffic too.
The new building was a show of faith in the future of the station and the line. Closing the café will have the opposite effect. The casual observer will conclude (perhaps unfairly) that the locals don’t really care about the station or its facilities. And of course it makes the station just that bit less civilised.
Hmm… a station that appears slightly unloved? Maybe it’s not so far away from this blog’s remit after all.