Interviews

01.03.12

The wait is over for Wolverton station

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Feb/March 2012

John McLaughlin, Milton Keynes Council’s transport project manager, talks to RTM about the new station building in Wolverton.

After years of campaigning for a new station building at Wolverton, its backers are now just weeks away from seeing it realised.

The new building – the fourth on the site since the creation of the station stop in 1838 – should be complete by March 31, to serve passengers using London Midland services in the Milton Keynes area on the Northampton to London route. The station serves around 300,000 passengers a year.

Plans for a new station building were in the works as far back as 2008, but it took until May 2011 for a design to be settled on, funding found and works to begin. Because of the large amount of disruption involved – commuters have been advised to use nearby Bletchley instead – Milton Keynes Council and the Wolverton Steering Group had to consult widely to ensure passengers and residents knew what was coming.

Buildings on the site have always been affected by the quality of the ground, according to Milton Keynes’ transport projects programme manager, John McLaughlin, who admitted that despite the generally good progress of the work, “there are always hiccups.”

Although Network Rail will own the station building when construction is complete, it’s an unusual situation as Milton Keynes Council are managing the building works.

The companies involved in designing and delivering the new station – architects bpr, YJL Infrastructure Ltd, and engineering firm SKM Sinclair Knight Merz –pledged from the start to take into account the rich railway heritage of the town while planning and conducting the works.

McLaughlin said: “The work’s gone very well: it’s a nice building. It was built on effectively rather poor ground because that’s the way the station was originally built.”

Railway town heritage

Wolverton Steering Group, Wolverton Rail Users Group, Wolverton Society for Arts & Heritage and Wolverton & Greenleys Town Council all contributed to the consultation and development of the project, delivering financial and practical support.

Milton Keynes’ community 2020 vision included a section on the station which was vital for the campaign to rebuild the station. The document reads: “The railway station is a central feature, and provides an impressive welcome to all who use it.”

The structure has benefited from creative design to reflect the Victorian heritage of Wolverton, one of the oldest railway towns in England. The first station building was constructed in 1838 and there have been three since, built in 1841, 1882, and now 2012.

McLaughlin said: “We’re trying to reflect that heritage; we’ve got a red brick design with glulam beams; wooden beams shaped in a very flat triangle with rounded edges. Those are the main structural elements of the station, they’re also supported by steel frames and struts but it’s predominantly a timber roof with a slate roof design on it – it’s innovative in that respect.”

Unorthodox foundations

The foundations of the station building are fairly unconventional, built on deep concrete piles due to the poor quality of the local ground. This caused some problems, as McLaughlin explained: “The fact that it’s been built on concrete piles has meant quite a lot of work to overcome that weak ground. It’s unusual for a building, but otherwise it couldn’t have been built.

“Of course there are always issues with having existing services, all the cables and pipes in the ground – you have to design the foundations to sit around or over those. It’s not like a greenfield site where you could have it on fairly ordinary foundations. This is a bit more complex. You’re effectively building it on a brownfield site; the existing station.”

In terms of challenges, McLaughlin described issues with the information concerning existing services in the ground, stating that these would sometimes be found ‘unexpectedly’.

He said: “We have to build the foundations through the platform, because it connects into the platform. So we found services that were not anticipated because they had been provided in another part of the platform.”

Improving passenger experience

The station will have access for the mobility impaired with a ramp from the adjoining road, a widened footpath and new fence.

A new set of steps is being installed and steps from the overbridge to the car park will be reopened. The car park itself will benefit from remodelling and resurfacing and disabled parking will be increased.

Inside the building, passengers will get a new ticket office and booking hall, a seated waiting area, toilet facilities and train information boards.

McLaughlin said: “It will provide them with sheltered waiting areas so they’re sheltered in bad weather, provide them with proper places to sit down. It will improve their experience significantly.”

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