Of all the fascinating topics covered by BB, Warrington Bus Station must rank in the top five and we therefore expect our hit rate to treble after this post (so a warm welcome to our two new readers). And the big news for fans of this mighty edifice is: it’s going.
Those who have visited the northern utopia of Warrington and perhaps made their grand entrance via the hallowed grey portals of what might be considered a bus cathedral (but shouldn’t be), from which they emerged squinting into rheumy daylight, will doubtless be saddened… no, wrong word… overjoyed… no… faintly pleased to hear that thirty years after it was built, and only one minute less since they realised what a vile deed they had wrought upon the earth, Warrington Council are about to bulldoze the place and replace it with something less injurious to mankind’s legacy (…one assumes - BB hasn’t seen the new plans, but only a painstaking replica of the Bull Ring could be worse). It isn’t recorded whether the original planners will be invited to swing the wrecking balls or, preferably, stand in front of them.
BB ought to remember the current station on Golborne Street being built in 1979, alongside the spiffing new Golden Square shopping centre, but our only memory is a photo of a huge hole in the ground on the front page of the Warrington Guardian, as construction started (in fact, we can’t even remember that end of town existing before then). Sadly, it would never look so good again. The finished article was a monolithic, grey, concrete dungeon that even bus drivers didn’t deserve to enter (and most exited at speeds in excess of safe limits, with the occasional brave soul pausing long enough to rescue some queuing passengers). It was truly a gift of the seventies, that decade when the country knew that its one enemy was Communist Russia, yet somehow contrived to import much of the architectural glamour and style of Brezhnev’s Moscow to its towns and cities.
As your bus swung beneath the high vaulted beams, the little sunlight that made it through the choking clouds of smog from the Lever factory would be blotted out and a terrible darkness would descend over both your eyes and your soul. Leaving the vehicle, you would pass through a thick glass partition, smeared with appreciative felt-tip messages from previous travellers (“CAZ LUVD DAZ ERE 4/5/84”) and enter the ambient bays with their pale walls and dimpled rubber floor, a theme continued at the top of the escalators, with added fag ends, where you passed the bijou newsagents selling the latest copy of Big ‘Uns before entering the flourescent wonderland of the Mall. (At the time, Warrington was considered to have leapfrogged to the preeminent position in the northern shopping centres league. Thirty years on, almost all the gloss has worn off, long surpassed by enormo-domes like the Trafford Centre, and it must now feel like a small, forgotten, colonial outpost of retail Britain.) A similar experience was provided for those who parked in the Leigh Street multi-storey and arrived via the soaring span of the link bridge that carried them across the ring road.
But worse was always to come: the return trip meant waiting in the same draughty place until the bus arrived and the driver had sat there reading his paper with the doors closed for the requisite ten minutes before moving off to the next bay down (a quaint old tradition that continues to this day). There were no seats, which would have spoilt the fine lines of the decor, only thick steel bars to coral the herd. Even leaving Warrington, a moment that should have been a cause for wild elation, became a miserable, tedious experience.
And it’s all going, only thirty years too late. The new facility will apparently have an airport terminal feel, which isn’t so bad if you’ve ever stood under the glass roof at Heathrow Terminal 2. Well, it probably won’t be that good, and it’s hard to compare First drivers with BA pilots, but at least it’s unlikely to see large scale use of concrete.
Meanwhile, if you know anyone who was involved with the building of the old station, spare no effort in ensuring that they play a key role in the construction of the new one - the foundations are being poured any day now.