Leicester has a new bus station. For the last two years, St Margaret’s Bus Station has been rebuilt as part of a £14.3 million overall redevelopment plan. Today it was officially opened to the public.
I took a tour of the building with a man in a high-viz jacket showing off everything that’s changed.
The most exciting thing for me was the new bicycle parking on the eastern corner of the building. The parking area is a small room behind a locked door, accessible from outside even if the station itself is closed, there are two-tier stands, packing the bikes together for maximum possible capacity. I don’t usually see much value in this kind of exclusive parking setup, but in this case I see how it meets a fairly specific scenario – if you’re going to the station for a long journey only to return several days later. Otherwise, there are enough publicly-accessible Sheffield stands outside the station too. And there’s a rental bike station for good measure. You can’t fault this for comprehensive cycling provision.
I asked several people about how the bike parking scheme would operate. The best answer I got was that it’s planned to integrate with the council’s swim/gym membership system. It will be free to sign up for the first two months, and £12 per year after the launch period.
Various elements of the building are recycled. The original 1985 steel frame has been kept, the real-time information screens are the same.
The buses have a direct access route onto Burleys Way, shaving a few minutes off each journey as the buses don’t need to make several turns to get out onto the internal motorway. The road in front of the station has been designated a bus lane, so shouldn’t have to contend with car traffic.
Our guide made some reference to the wider improvement scheme for the area, removal of the footbridge crossing the internal motorway,1 replacing the nearby nightclub with a hotel and 400 new flats. It’s still a run-down area in general, but that comes with the territory – between the back of the shopping centre and the motorway, it’s a neighbourhood dotted with betting shops and strip clubs, wide empty lots dedicated to car parking.
The control room will have a TV showing where all buses are in real time, and a connection to the city’s traffic control. At the moment it’s just a bare room with an empty server rack and a sofa.
In the future this room will have a station for servicing ticketing machines, to avoid sending buses back to the depot. Next to the control room is a cleaners station, which is there for people to clean buses at the station rather than going back to the depot. During the St Margaret’s redevelopment the old Arriva bus depot in South Wigston was shut down, I would guess the idea is to rely more on facilities at the station to keep buses in circulation.
There are a few new accessibility features. Tactile floor bumps, and braille panels on the bus stands.
The disabled toilet and changing area has a sink which moves up and down. We were told this room cost around £15,000 to kit out. I was pretty impressed by the mobile sink.
There is more space between bus stands now, and an optimised parking design means they can fit 6 more buses in the station. This is probably one of the most important features of the redevelopment, and unfortunately one of the least interesting things to talk about.
There are two rapid charging outlets for electric buses. Ducting is in place for more charging outlets, but at the moment the Mansfield Street substation can’t handle the electricity demand.
The fire alarm system has been modernised. Our guide was keen to point out that the old station was not up to standard and had experienced a few near-misses on fire safety.
The toilets have fancy infrared heaters, and a drinking fountain. There were some issues with water pressure so the fountain wasn’t working. I didn’t check out the flush strength on the toilets but evidently quite a few things yet to sort out.
There’s a cafe opening in 2 weeks.
One nice thing about this is it’s run by the same local business as in the old station. No Starbucks® here.
There’s also a newsagent, and as with the café it’s an independent outlet.
There’s a smart ventilation system which opens the windows when the temperature reaches 23°C. The building has an A++ energy efficiency rating, and there are solar panels on the roof. We were taken up to the roof to look at the panels. From up here you can see an office block, multi-storey car park, and… some air vents.
It’s not much of a view.
Finally, I asked another guide about how the relationship works between the council, Arriva, and National Express. Parts of the building are leased to those bus companies, giving them the ability to operate out of the station with their own staff and facilities. That’s nothing special, but the basic situation is that these private companies benefit from a large investment in infrastructure built and maintained at public expense.
Maybe I’m missing something but the footbridge was useful for crossing a big road. I don’t see how demolishing it counts as an improvement. ↩