Station roof collapse hits Cheshire travel

Part of the roof at Northwich railway station collapsed yesterday, causing disruption to rail services expected to last through much of today.

A section of the station building roof and the connected platform canopy came down, landing on the station platform.

Although the railway line itself is not affected, Northern Rail, the train operating company that manages the station, said that trains would not be calling at Northwich for most of today, while part of the building is demolished and the station made safe.

Services have resumed on the Manchester-Chester service using the Mid-Cheshire Line. A bus service will be in place between Northwich and Greenbank, meaning delays to the regular timetable are likely.

A statement from Northern said: “Network Rail is carrying out a full investigation into what happened alongside the regulator, the Office for Rail and Road, but the priority for now is to make the station safe and operational as soon as possible.”

Chris Jackson, the train operating company’s regional director, said last night: “Anyone planning to travel on the Mid Cheshire Line should check with National Rail Enquiries for up-to-date information as the incident may still have an impact on the rail network.

“I’d like to thank our customers in Cheshire for their ongoing patience and understanding and I’d also like to thank those who responded to the incident for their help and assistance during what has been an extremely difficult day for all involved.”

Network Rail told Place North West that an update will be issued later today as to when the station will reopen.

For some, the incident is a sign of a lack of investment. Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury tweeted that it was “a miracle that nobody was killed or seriously injured,” adding that he and others have been calling for investment “in our creaking infrastructure”.

Heritage planner Richard MacDonald, replying to Amesbury’s tweet, suggested that trees growing from the roof over the years, blocking guttering, could have led to the weakening of the building’s stone and timber.

One industry professional told Place that stations outside of major municipal areas are prone to under-investment and “falling between the cracks” as Network Rail’s budgets become stretched in many directions, while train-operating companies working on five-year franchise agreements feel little motivation to contribute to long-term upkeep.

Expanding on his tweet in a futher statement proided to Place, Amesbury said: “This is a Victorian railway station in desperate need of investment. That is something I have called for in the past and I do so again today.

“For example, I have been campaigning to improve accessibility at the station. If you are disabled or have mobility issues, you can only travel in the Manchester direction because the other platform is solely accessible by steps and a footbridge. That is not acceptable in this day and age.

“Over the long term there is a need to work with all relevant parties to rebuild and modernise the station. I have so far spoken to a civil servant and contacted a minister in the Department for Transport and will be writing to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps about this serious incident because it could so easily have ended in tragedy.

“It is concerning many stations across the North West are of a similar age, many also in need of significant investment. I am assured regular structural inspections take place to ensure the safety of the travelling public. However, I am mindful this station will have been subject to the same inspection regime, so that may be something that needs looking at as part of the investigation.”

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