Over 30 members and supporters crammed into the Community Room on Bolton Station’s Platform 5 for the second annual general meeting of Bolton Station Community Development Partnership on February 14. The group was formed a year ago, with the initial intention of holding a community gala in the summer to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of steam traction at Bolton loco shed. Since then, the partnership’s ambitions have grown significantly, and today it was agreed to transform the group into a full-blown ‘community rail partnership’ for the Bolton area. It was also agreed to establish the partnership as a legally-constituted body.
“This represents a major step forward for the partnership”, said the group’s chair Professor Paul Salveson. “Having full ‘community rail partnership’ status opens up wider funding opportunities and enables us to work across the borough and with adjoining community rail groups”.
The partnership has been working with Network Rail, Northern and the University of Bolton to bring most of the currently empty space at the station back into use for arts and community projects. Work has already started on the £1 million project, which also includes waiting room refurbishment. One room on platform 4/5 will be transformed into a gallery and performance space with light refreshment facilities. Space upstairs will be used for a mix of arts and community activities. The project represents the biggest community rail scheme in the UK, at one location.
“These are very exciting times for Bolton station, its users and staff,” said Paul. “The completion of electrification and suspension of the RMT strikes means there is a much improved service. And from May 20 we will have the return of late evening services from Manchester and the re-introduction of TransPennine Express services to Scotland.”
The partnership involves a wide range of members including Northern, Transport for Greater Manchester, Network Rail, University of Bolton, Bolton Council, Community Rail Lancashire, Bolton Rail User Group, BAND (mental health charity), Bolton at Home, Bolton City of Sanctuary, Live from Worktown, Bolton Documentary Photography Group and many individual supporters. The group is keen to encourage more individual membership as well as corporate membership from local and regional community organisations and businesses.
Sam Johnson, Head of the School of Arts at the University, commented: “We are delighted to be involved with this very rewarding project which promises to bring multiple benefits to the wider Bolton community and to University and Bolton College students. Our aim is to enhance our engagement with community groups by providing access to arts and wellbeing related activities supported by student volunteers training in a variety of community and arts-related contexts. The progress made so far is remarkable and all credit should go to Network Rail, Northern and the Bolton Station Community Development Partnership for their commitment to making the station a vibrant community asset”.
The meeting received two very special gifts. Noel Coates of The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Society presented the partnership with two framed portraits of former Horwich-based Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway celebrities: chief mechanical engineers George Hughes and Sir John Aspinall. David Tracey, a former draughtsman at Hick Hargreaves, presented the group with a framed drawing of one of the historic locomotives built by the once world-renowned Bolton company in the 19th century.All three pictures will be displayed in the partnership’s Community Room.
Councillor David Chadwick proposed a vote of thanks to the staff at Bolton station who, throughout a long and difficult year, continued to provide a friendly and helpful service to passengers. His proposal was carried with acclamation.