It took almost two years, but Preston’s iconic bus station is finished . . . well almost.
After £19m lovingly spent on doing up a national treasure, the 50-year-old building has been officially re-opened in a simple civic ceremony.
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International architect John Puttick was there to see his baby unwrapped and confessed: “I’m really proud of this.”
County Hall leader Geoff Driver, who carried out the unveiling on behalf of owners LCC, declared: “This is a great day for Preston.”
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And project manager Andrew Barrow added: “It’s been challenging, but we got there in the end.”
While there are still a few small jobs to be finished – and a bit more cash to be spent – the fully refurbished terminus, with its 10-level car park on top, is now as good as new and open for business.
The bus station, which only five years ago looked destined to be bulldozed, has been brought back to its former glory with a sympathetic restoration overseen by conservationists.
VIP guests arrived at the ceremony aboard three classic buses – from Fishwick, Ribble and Preston Corporation – which were all in service on the day in October 1969 when the building was first opened.
Coun Driver told them: “We are lucky to be standing here in the bus station. Originally it was going to be knocked down as part of the Tithebarn development, but that collapsed.
“It was debated whether it should be knocked down. Preston Council couldn’t afford the resources to refurbish it. Thankfully it was listed, which effectively saved it.
“Something in the order of £19m has been spent to date.
“It is not quite finished, there is still a little bit more to be done.
“Yet we now have this fantastic refurbishment. And it is going to serve Preston and the people of Lancashire for generations to come.”
Architect John, whose company won the contract to design the refurbishment as well as a Youth Zone and public open space on the western concourse, admitted the finished article was even better than he had imagined.
“I am really pleased with it,” he told the Post.
“It’s much better, it’s much cleaner and I hope everybody feels it is a big improvement. It feels like a really safe public building and that’s really good.
“It is a project that has been debated for a long time before I became involved and people have strong feelings about this building one way or the other.
“There were always going to be some problems to deliver it.
“It’s been a challenge keeping the building operational while we did the work. The bus station has never closed and there has only been about a quarter of it worked on at a time.
“But I’m really happy with the way it has turned out. I’m really proud of this. It’s fantastic.”
Angie Ridgwell, LCC’s interim chief executive, said: “Only a few years ago this building was at risk of demolition.
“But I have learned how important it is, not only to the people of Preston, but also architectural critics across the globe who are fascinated by its unique Brutalist architecture.”
Project manager Andrew added: “It’s been challenging in that we were dealing with a listed structure and all the restrictions that brings with it.
“It never closed throughout the work, from the day we started in September 2016 to June this year when we completed the work. It was logistically difficult, but we got there.”