Burscough No Go

Photo of Burscough Bridge Station Sign, mentioning Martin Mere Wetland CentreRecently 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).

Photo of Burscough Bridge Interchange Station Building

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.

Photo of old station building on platform at Burscough Bridge

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.

Notice on window of cafe: "Café closed until further notice"

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.

British Rail / Lancashire County Council sign at Burscough Bridge InterchangeI’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.

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8 thoughts on “Burscough No Go

  1. Burscough Junction gets a far more infrequent service (every hour and a half, roughly, and nothing on Sundays) and is even more unloved, if you happen to be that way again…

  2. I’d be surprised if Northern had been running the cafe themselves. Unlike in the days of Travellers Fare (a subsidiary of the BRB) and its subsidiary on Provincial stations, Buffers, all station cafe and shop outfits are now privately owned/franchises/contract services – the exception being African-dictator themed ‘Mtogo’.

    The cafe will have been private and held a lease from (most likely) Network Rail or (sometimes happens in new build stations) the county council. I’d expect the railway to be responsible for putting the cafe out of business, however – the lease will have risen in price if the new station has proved popular, probably to the point of bankrupting the cafe.

    Select Service Partners (Travellers Fare that was) could bid for the vacant lease for an Upper Crust or a Pumpkin, but they seem to prefer a contractual arrangement where they share the risk with NR in return for a share of the profits. NR aren’t going to offer that at a Regional Railways station, so it’d need to be a private concern. In this economy, who will lend against passenger numbers, especially with a category-killer like Tesco with its cheap sandwiches and grotty cafe a car ride away?

  3. I’d actually love to take on this cafe. I live in Burscough, and was on the steering group representing the Parish Council when it was open as a community cafe. Let’s just say, I had ideas and they were ignored in favour of others. I couldn’t see the logic in have a station cafe that only opened after the rush hour had finished for a start or the decision not to install either a decent espresso machine or even a quick bean to cup solution. I found this blog as I start to research who actually owns it and may like to offer me a sensibly priced lease on the premises. I’d love to hear suggestions…

    • Hi Nigel. Sad to hear about the problems with the café – I agree that being open during the rush hour and having decent coffee are essential to a decent station buffet. As for ownership, I suspect if you contact Northern Rail as managers of the station, they will be able to point you in the right direction.

  4. I have a ceramic restoration studio in burscough wharf which has been which has been going for 3 years the business 7 years bringing custometo burscough from all over the country and world. I have alsi brough a lot of publicity to burscough ( press and the bbc filmed in my studio at the wharf) I am looking to expand my business and the burscough bridge cafe would be ideal for my plans.
    I have been told how the cafe has failed three time. I want to move the Ceramic restoration and Dolls Hospital to the cafe and along with a teddys coffee shop ( with good exspresso coffees & home made sanwiches and cakes) the staff in the station have been very helpful via communicating my idea to their manager but it has now been said that Lcc might want to turn the little cafe into an Lcc office or if it stays as a cafe it will be put for tender but they will have to have a meeting but dont know when this will take place, the cafe has been closed for over 3 years my business is up and running and needs to expand. The dolls hospital started in burscough and may have to move to Southport yet there is an idea l empty place that I cut put on the map imagine the tourist comibgvto tge dolls hospital and teddys tea or coffee room.

  5. The booking off ice is now to be closed for good, and replaced by the village library.The staff that work there where the most helpful that i have seen on a rail network for a long time.
    Commuters and as far as i am aware (moved from there a few years ago) most of the villagers wanted it to remain open.
    unfortunately the council had other ideas

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