The fortunes of Helsby Railway Station have well and truly turned around, as a rail tour operator is to relaunch it as a staffed station just two years after the dilapidated station house was cordoned off due to falling debris caused by rot, sparking an extensive renovation project by Network Rail.
The annex on platform one at the 151-year-old station, which has won more awards than any other in the United Kingdom, will become the headquarters of Compass Tours.
The family-run business has big ambitions for the station, including a new waiting room and travel centre where passengers can purchase train tickets to any station in Britain, receive information about rail excursions and short breaks, and enjoy refreshments.
Kevin Melia from Compass Tours said: “Compass Tours has been organising days out and short breaks by rail for over a decade now and is looking forward to relocating its current offices to Helsby Railway Station, which will see the opening of a community travel centre and small waiting room facility.
"The site was chosen as it was deemed perfect by the business for its location in the region and our ambitions to find an opportunity to develop a facility both useful to the community and to enable Compass to diversify more from its current activities.
“Compass Tours now also sits on the local North Cheshire Rail Users Group (NCRUG) and is working with them and local rail operators to bring forth any service upgrades and new journeys (such as the Halton Curve line linking the area with Runcorn and Liverpool).”
Compass Tours’ involvement has delighted the NCRUG.
Iain Whitley from NCRUG said: “The North Cheshire Rail Users Group has campaigned endlessly for years for the improvements you’re seeing today.
“It’s very humbling and, at times, emotional to see our wonderful station now restored and rising like a phoenix from the ashes to its former glory knowing our years of hard campaigning haven’t been in vein.
Iain added the group will now turn its attentions to reinstating the Halton Curve and an improved service on the Ellesmere Port line.
Compass Tours hope to introduce the services at the travel centre during the Summer or in early Autumn, ahead of a grand opening event for the community to celebrate the completion of the station’s restoration.
As part of the celebrations prior to the re-opening of Helsby Railway Station as a staffed station, Compass Tours’ Fathers Day charter train to Settle and Carlisle will call at Helsby on June 15.
For more information about Compass Tours, visit www.compasstoursbyrail.co.uk.