BLACKBURN’S new bus station has been hailed as major step forward in public transport and passenger comfort.
The claim was made as the politicians, engineers and designers behind the building showed off its completed shell and outlined its 21st century hi-tech benefits and comfort it will house.
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It’s even been described as “The Harrods of bus stations” by Eric Wright, veteran founder of the construction company which completed the trouble-dogged £4.7million complex.
The claim was proudly trumpeted by Blackburn with Darwen Council’s regeneration boss, Cllr Phil Riley, to emphasise how advanced, passenger-friendly and important the long-delayed project would become to the town.
He said the use of the latest passenger information technology, trialled on the 152 route and sporadically available from special “black boxes” on the old Boulevard bus shelter complex, would bring Blackburn into line with other major towns and cities such as Manchester where such equipment was standard.
Cllr Riley stressed the Ainsworth Street bus station would help make the nearby town centre and £34million Cathedral Quarter the “hub and heart of East Lancashire”.
With the first bus sitting on the apron, he and designer Capita’s boss Ian Richardson showed of the technology and outlined the facilities that will open to the travelling public on May 1.
They were surrounded by the sculptured white loops signifying the cloth hanging from the beams and looms of the Victorian weaving sheds that made the borough’s wealth and reputation.
The 90metre by 10.5metre enclosed glazed structure will provide a naturally vented and heated environment with the bus apron on one side, with automatic doors that only open when a bay is occupied by a vehicle, and passenger access from a pedestrianised Ainsworth Street nest to The Mall and market.
This will ensure safety and allow landscaping including grassed areas between the vehicle entrance and exit points.
Key elements of the new building include: a counter area at the hub building providing verbal and printed public transport information; large information screens on arrival directing passengers to bus stands; smaller screens at the stands showing scheduled or real time departures; a Journey Planning Unit where passengers can but and top-up NoWSTAR smartcards; an ATM cash machine; female, male and disabled WCs, costing 20 pence a visit; a “grab and go” food and drink vendors and newsagents; seating areas for passengers to await departures; and internal and external CCTV controlled and monitored within the building.
The bus station will be staffed from first to last bus, 5am to 11pm, offering timetable advice and assistance and security in the evenings.
Cllr Riley said: “This is the first time we have had a proper, warm, enclosed and comfortable bus station in Blackburn.
“The boulevard as just a collection of bus shelters.
“It will bring the comprehensive use of bus lanes with the latest technology such as automatic special gates and barriers and traffic signals that go green for the buses to the borough for the first time.
“The comprehensive package will bring us up to the standards passengers have come to expect in other major town’s and cities such as Manchester are used to.
“This and the completion of the £40million Pennine Reach scheme, will give people travelling between Darwen, Blackburn and Hyndburn a faster, reliable and punctual service so they leave their cars and easing traffic on our roads.”
Frequent bus services will operate between the Cathedral Quarter / Railway Station and the new bus station.