The next station has a new lease of life! SWR seeks adopters for old station buildings and spaces

Friday 24th May 2024

Redecorated community room in Bitterne station

  • South Western Railway is marking Community Rail Week, which celebrates the contribution of local communities to the railway 
  • The amazing transformation of Bitterne station in Southampton is just one example of the community revitalising a disused space  
  • A video tour of the restored old ticket office building by Hampshire Community Rail Partnership’s Director can be watched here 
  • There are opportunities across the South Western Railway network for local communities and businesses to adopt and refurbish either old station buildings or disused station spaces  

SOUTH Western Railway (SWR) is using this year’s Community Rail Week (20-26 May) to find a new lease of life for its disused station buildings and rooms. 

The theme of this year’s Community Rail Week is ‘More Than a Railway’ and aims to shine a spotlight on the lesser-known community side of the railway. 

To mark the week, SWR is highlighting the amazing work by one of its 12 Community Rail Partnerships (CRPs) which is turning a disused station space into a place for communities to meet, host events and provide refreshments. 

At Bitterne in Southampton, the award-winning Hampshire Community Rail Partnership (CRP) is transforming an old ticket office for use by its station adoption group, following three decades of closure. 

The Friends of Bitterne Station — one of more than 100 station adoption groups on the SWR network — had initially used the space for a weekly mosaics art group, along with crafting and gardening events in the spring and summer.  

However, the building needed some love and care to transform it into a space that the group could properly use. 

That came when Hampshire CRP took on a lease for the building and used an investment of £40,000 from SWR’s Customers and Communities Improvement Fund (CCIF), awarded in 2023

Work to restore the ticket office began in January, which is when the CRP made the amazing discovery of Southern Railway features from the 1920s and '30s, such as the building’s original red clay tile flooring, windows, paintwork and a fireplace. 

It was then that the Railway Heritage Trust provided funding to preserve those features and a package of work was carried out, including the reopening and restoring of the original windows, painting throughout the building, rehanging doors, refurbishing toilet ceramics and replacing lighting. 

Work is set to finish later in May, which will allow the Friends of Bitterne Station to build on their activities, ensuring a lasting legacy for the station and the local community. 

A video tour of the restored old ticket office building by Hampshire Community Rail Partnership’s Director can be watched here

There are many more waiting to be transformed on the SWR network, ranging from under-stairs storage to large rooms, vacant retail units and old disused parts of the station buildings. 

Such spaces come in various states of condition and refurbishment projects often require significant investment, so third-party funding and consent may be required to support development. 

SWR’s Community Rail, Station Property teams and managing agents would be very happy to discuss ideas for potential uses of these spaces with interested groups and can explain how they may work together to help bring these spaces back to life. 

Paula Aldridge, South Western Railway’s Community Rail Manager, said: 

“Community Rail Week is a welcome opportunity to demonstrate what our amazing Community Rail Partnerships have achieved and show just what a massive difference they can make to the stations on our network. 

“We’ve been so impressed by the work that has been done using old station buildings and spaces, including the ongoing project at Bitterne, and we’d love to see more of the same at some of our other stations that have old buildings and spaces that aren’t being used. 

“It’s a big commitment to refurbish these places, requiring a lot of effort and a lot of investment, but the work we’ve seen on our network will hopefully inspire other local communities and businesses to do something similar with their local station. 

“If anyone out there wants to enquire about the buildings and spaces we’ve mentioned, or ask if there are any other opportunities, please get in touch with me.” 

Mark Miller, Hampshire Community Rail Partnership’s Director, said: 

“We are extremely grateful for the help SWR has provided in agreeing to lease the building to us and also for the significant funds provided for refurbishment through the Customer and Communities Improvement Fund. 

“Together with Hampshire Community Rail Partnership’s own funding and contributions from the Railway Heritage Trust, along with fantastic input from the Bitterne Station Adoption Group, we have managed to develop an amazing partnership approach to bringing this property back into everyday use for the community.” 

Tim Hedley-Jones, The Railway Heritage Trust’s Executive Director, said: 

“After the success of the restoration of Shawford Station, The Railway Heritage Trust is delighted to work again with Hampshire Community Rail Partnership and South Western Railway to give grants and provide advice for the wonderful restoration and re-use of Bitterne Station. 

“Three grants have been awarded, giving an overall total of £37,000 and it’s great that this funding has enabled historic features to be restored including the windows, fireplace, flooring and preservation of the historic paint colours of the old railway companies over the years. 

“The re-use of these buildings is essential for their future and gives a welcome benefit to the local community. 

“We are very pleased that South Western Railway is encouraging the restoration and re-use of historic buildings in their care. The Railway Heritage Trust always welcomes opportunities to help fund similar projects at stations which are listed, in a conservation area, or have special architectural or historic features.” 

Some station buildings and spaces are available subject to approval by the Department for Transport.  
Just some station spaces potentially open for adoption are: 

  • Addlestone – former gentleman’s toilets and a small office, formerly used by a taxi company 
  • Andover – a former retail unit 
  • Brentford – a former retail unit 
  • Brookwood – a former retail unit linked to the station ticket office and a garden area 
  • Chertsey – a large room with attached toilet facilities 
  • Hilsea – a small station building 
  • Mortlake – a former taxi office 
  • New Milton – a former retail unit 
  • Oxshott – a pair of former waiting rooms 
  • Portsmouth & Southsea – a large room, formerly a ticket office, accessed from the main internal concourse 
  • Portsmouth Harbour* – a former retail unit 
  • Strawberry Hill – a former taxi office 
  • St Deny’s – former waiting room and WCs 
  • Teddington – a former taxi office 
  • Weybridge – a former taxi office 
  • Whitton – a former taxi office 
  • Witley – a former retail unit 
  • Worplesdon – two former retail units 
  • Yeovil Junction* – former workshop  

*May soon be put to operational use by SWR 

Details and links to SWR’s 12 CRPs can be found here