Walking across the big road junction of Gateway Bridge and Church Street earlier in the week I was gratified to see that a large hoarding has finally appeared telling us Hartlepudlians that our new transport interchange is to be constructed soon, joining together bus, coach, rail and taxi services all in one place. Hooray… I think!
Well it’s about time really, we’ve been hearing about the upcoming construction of the ‘Hartlepool Interchange’ for several years now with nothing concrete happening. In 2002/3 the ‘Tees Valley Joint Strategy Unit’ (who are responsible for our strategic transport planning and technical support) reported that the planned start date for construction was going to be January 2004. Three and a bit years later we’re still waiting for the first sod to be removed – but it’s nice to see that the engineers have finally got round to drawing a nice (if a bit unclear) picture and erecting a lovely sign to keep us happy. Number 10’s web site is saying that work will commence in summer 2007. That’s all very well but how about telling us when it will be finished, and not when it will commence.
As well as the new bus stands and taxi rank let’s hope the powers that be take the opportunity to revamp the railway station as well. It needs it. This is a great opportunity and let’s hope it gets seized with both hands. Would there be any chance of two platforms and a bridge between them? Come on… even Seaham has two platforms! One current highlight of the station is the Trainstop Cafe – it’s great (and cheap)… perhaps as part of the plan it could even be extended slightly as its a bit cramped and at peak times It can get very busy – I’ve seen customers look in the door and walk out again as they can’t see a free seat. At the very least the station needs a good tidy up, a replacement roof, the ironwork restoring and a bit of modernisation so that passengers can stand and wait for their direct trains to London (still waiting for these as well…) in a nice environment – much more importantly it also gives a good impression of the town to those arriving here for leisure activities and especially to conduct business.
Oh yes… and get more than one fellow on at the ticket office at peak times – it only takes someone to arrive and enquire about tickets for a week on Wednesday (our lovely rail system has organised it so that you have to do this if you want the cheapest fares) and he can be tied up for 15 mins or more serving one customer.
Hopefully more buses will use this new interchange – not just the longer distance services to Durham and Sunderland etc. but more of the local Stagecoach buses as well. Here’s a good idea… well I think it is… how about the new interchange having one shop/stall/shack/whatever which can sell coach tickets, bus tickets, rail tickets and can give information on all these things. At the moment if you want to know about any bus services you have to visit the Stagecoach shop by the King John Tavern (when it can be bothered to be open that is – if it isn’t just visit the King John Tavern) and then the Arriva shop in Victoria Road. For the other bus operators God knows where you get the info from… so if you’re needing to arrange anything more than a quick trip to Middlesbrough then you can see that just planning an out of town journey can take longer than the journey itself. One little stall at the new interchange could do all this and more… it could sell National Express tickets or you could book an excursion to London. The important thing is that it would be part of the interchange and not owned by one bus company so as you can get impartial advice on all buses of all colours. I’ll even run it if the powers that be will let me, I quite fancy wearing a uniform every day – and Mrs H might fancy me a bit more if I were dressed as a clippie.
Ding Ding… Fares please! Climb aboard Madam!