PLANS are under way to completely regenerate the “appalling” area surrounding Hungerford railway station.
Hungerford Town Council is proposing a facelift for the gateway to the town, with floral arrangements, antique artefacts – and even a station manager dressed as the ‘Fat Controller’ to welcome visitors.
The eccentric idea is inspired by the character of Sir Topham Hatt, who is the head of the railway in The Railway Series of books written by the Rev WV Awdry and featuring Thomas The Tank Engine.
Driving the project on behalf of the council is John Willmott, a regular commuter who formed the Hungerford Users of Rail Transport (HURT) in 2013.
In a report to the town council’s highways and transport committee on Monday, Mr Willmott said that Great Western Railway (GWR) had agreed to redecorate by next year and to change the colour scheme to GWR Green to match the rail bridge over the High Street.
Other plans include trimming the towering laurel bushes, improving the planter tubs and removing litter.
Mr Willmott described the current state of the area as “appalling” and added: “Net-work Rail is supposed to keep the vegetation alongside the footpath in check – so why aren’t they? The station is not satisfactory for a town like Hungerford.
“The planter tubs are looking forlorn. Perhaps we can get the [Wyevale] garden centre to help.”
The committee also discussed plans to promote the thriving antiques trade in the town by placing artefacts that reflect it along the station approach.
The station surroundings are a persistent thorn in the side of those who wish to promote Hungerford as a tourist destination and ‘gateway to the North Wessex Downs’.
For years there have been discussions about improving the area, including the alleyway off The Cuttings, which is currently littered with take-away debris and other detritus. Committee member Doris Colloff warned: “The way it is at the moment it will attract rats.”
Richard Hudson added: “The station at Pewsey stands in dramatic contrast to ours, I’m afraid.”
The committee heard that previous regeneration attempts had foundered because half of the land is owned and maintained by GWR and the rest by Network Rail.
Mr Willmott said: “Between them, nothing is happening. No one is monitoring what their contractors are supposed to be doing and they are getting away with the bare minimum.”
However, he revealed that GWR has now agreed “in principle” to the Fat Controller station master concept – a volunteer who would greet visitors on busy days and hand out maps and information about Hungerford.
Mr Hudson congratulated Mr Willmott on his plans for the project and added: “We’ve been trying to improve the station area for many years. This will pull all these threads together.