IMPROVEMENTS to Skegness’s dilapidated rail facilities are hoped to provide a warmer welcome for the town’s thousands of visitors.
Network Rail began work on the second stage of its £21million investment to renew the old track between Boston and Skegness and improve Skegness station.
Tourism figures have welcomed the news which follows years of discontent with the town’s train service.
Chairman of Skegness, East Coast and Wolds Hospitality Association Nigel Tett said: “Previously holiday makers visiting by train have been treated like cattle, hopefully this will make for a more prompt and efficient service and will allow them to put more carriages on the line.
“First encounters count and when people come to Skegness the railway station is like the town’s shop window which at the moment is not a very attractive one.”
Run-down old buildings in the station will be demolished to allow for more aesthetic landscaping and future development.
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In the past Skegness Civic Society has campaigned ardently for station refurbishments and offered to purchase the station from Network Rail to transform the old station master’s house, into a multi-purpose hub.
While maintaining the historic and cultural significance of the station, it was hoped additional facilities such as cafes and a centre to promote the town’s attractions could be developed.
Unfortunately legal issues intervened and the Civic Society now welcome Network Rail’s investment.
Civic Society Chairman Coun Steve Kirk said: “The Civic Society have always been clear that they would love to save the rail station and they would love to have it refurbished but in the current economic climate it is very difficult to raise the huge sums of money required.
“If that cannot happen it is best that they are demolished rather than stay as they are for another five years.”
One of the original station buildings will remain and it is hoped a similar down-scaled project can utilise that.
Alongside station refurbishments track works will improve the reliability of services and provide passengers with a smoother ride on the section of rail which has suffered from years of under-investment since it was first opened in 1873.
However no improvements to journey times are expected and any increase in services will be reliant on East Midlands Trains altering its timetable.
The line will be closed every Sunday until the end of February and there will be shorter midweek overnight closures between February and May to allow the work to be carried out.
During the summer work will be suspended to minimise disruption to tourism and will recommence in September due for completion in December 2011.
The costs of replacing of 73,000 yards of rail have been reduced by using recycled materials for at least 50 per cent of the rails and all of the concrete sleepers.
Area general manager for network rail Kevin Preece said: “We are getting extra value by using recycled materials. That will result in massive amounts of track replaced in a very short timescale saving money and carbon. The station works will clear old buildings from the front of the station, making the area more pleasant for passengers and allowing for future development.”