Central Will Soon Be Back on Track; with a Much-Needed Makeover Now within Sight, William Leece Takes an Excursion through the History of the 'Grot-Spot' Station
Byline: William Leece
POOR old Central Station. One of the official grot-spots of the railway network, according to a report that went straight to Transport Secretary Lord Adonis this week.
Managers at MerseyRail must have despaired that the report hit the minister's desk just as he dropped by to open the new pounds 1m MToGo ticket office and travel centre. Speak to railway people privately and they will agree that Central leaves a lot to be desired, but, despite the bad news, there was a silver lining with the announcement that the station was to receive a share of a pounds 50m pot for improvements..
But those with long memories will comfort themselves that even the shabby Central of today is a million times better than the ramshackle operation that passed for an underground station in the 1960s and 70s.
Turn back the clock another decade and a half, though, and Central was a bustling terminus. Underground services ran under the Mersey to the Wirral, as they do today, but surface links stretched across the country, a legacy of the old Cheshire Lines Committee that built the station in 1874.
Manchester Central was just 45 minutes away, and there were services to London St Pancras, Hull, boat trains to Harwich and even, until the early 1950s, to Southport and the now-forgotten Lord Street Station.
Where did it all go wrong? Like almost every other sad story of lost railways, it all goes back to the infamous Dr Beeching.
Richard Beeching was a senior ICI man brought in by the government of the day in the early 1960s with a brief to stem the railways' losses.
His plan involved cutting the network by a third, and its main casualty in Liverpool was Central Station. The incoming Labour government in 1964 did little to blunt the Beeching Axe, and two years later the run-down of Central's overground operations started.
The London trains were just dropped, and the other main line services were switched to Lime Street. At ground level, Central became a ghost station, with the final service running to Gateacre in April, 1972.
Below ground, it was a different story. …