Bed and breakfast at leisure centre for stranded rail passengers

Stranded passengers at West View Leisure Centre
Stranded passengers at West View Leisure Centre
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Officers from British Transport Police collected 200 McDonald’s breakfasts this weekend, to feed hundreds of stranded rail passengers.

As Storm Desmond battered the region, about 2,500 people were moved via road from Preston station on Saturday, according to rail bosses.

The Virgin Trains station team said they booked as many hotel rooms across Lancashire as possible and tried to arrange travel via buses and taxis, but it was not always possible because of the road conditions.

Trains bosses worked alongside British Transport Police (BTP) and Lancashire County Council to put together an “emergency plan”, with 178 people being sent to West View Leisure Centre.

The Women’s Voluntary Service provided support there, and Virgin Trains arranged for refreshments and blankets to be sent to the leisure centre.

BTP officers and a member of the Virgin Trains team spent Saturday night at the leisure centre, and went to McDonald’s and bought everyone breakfast the following morning.

Adrian Yorston, BTP inspector at Preston, said: “Because of the impact on the road network and the rail network, it wasn’t possible to get people further north so we had to put something in place.”
A BTP van was filled with 200 breakfasts for the passengers, and Insp Yorston said: “It was a bit of an adventure for them, and I’m pleased with how everyone pulled together.”

BTP Lancashire tweeted: “Well done to the three @McDonaldsUK Deepdale staff when our officers turned up with a £329 order for 200 breakfasts for stranded passengers.”

About 60 people were left at Preston Station overnight, including elderly passengers and a young football team returning from a football contest.

They were taken to the conference rooms in the station, where they spent the night. The customers were given tea and coffee, and station staff also ordered 20 pizzas for them.

Shirley Ross, station manager at Preston, worked for 22 hours on Saturday and many of the Virgin Trains team came in on their day off.

Jimmy Khan, head of sport and leisure at Preston Council, said: “Sincere thanks must go to all West View Leisure Centre staff, particularly Andy Michnowiec the assistant manager who stayed overnight when his nine hour shift was already over.

“Huge thanks to everyone else involved for their support and offers of assistance to help more than 200 stranded people, especially Virgin Trains, the Red Cross and Royal Preston Hospital.

“Staff provided food and hot drinks and tried to make people as comfortable as possible.

“The rest centres were never designed to provide overnight accommodation and with that in mind, Preston showed it is willing and able to step up to a challenge and get the job done.”