Network Rail say they intend keeping Bath Spa station open next April – even though this historic stopping point on the London to Bristol line is going to be subject to major reconstruction work.
It’s all part of the electrification programme of the Great Western main line from the capital to the west.
Because the canopies over the platforms – are part of the station’s Grade 2 listing – they cannot be cut back to allow for cable-carrying pylons to be erected.
Instead the up and down tracks are going to be moved towards the middle of the rail bed and the platforms built out to meet them.
The work will be carried out between April 8th and the 24th but only one platform at a time will close – with the rest of the station remaining open.
It will also allow for a platform extension over part of the Skew Bridge.
The original Great Western Railway was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel who chose a broad gauge of 7 feet for his rolling stock and – although that eventually was changed to ‘standard’ – it has left room for Network Rail to adjust things without damaging the station which is located within a Conservation Area and the World Heritage Site of Bath.
In a submission for Listed Building planning consent – presented to B&NES – Network Rail say:
‘Due to the large distance between tracks there is an option to move the tracks closer together to avoid cutting back the canopy.
In order to achieve the necessary physical and electrical clearances of the overhead line equipment; the track will be moved closer together.
This will also provide a larger waiting area on the platforms (particularly around the stairs of the down (south) platform), improve stepping distances from the train and improve platform drainage.
It is considered that widening the platforms, rather than cutting back canopies resulting in the loss of historic fabric, is the most favourable solution to achieving the necessary alterations whilst maintaining the historic fabric and character of the listed station.’
Elsewhere in the application Network Rail say:
‘The proposed platform widening and regrading will allow Bath Spa Station to be adapted to enable electrification of the GWML and upgrade the station to conform to current Network Rail design standards.
he proposals to achieve this have been designed to minimise harm to the significance of the listed station by providing a visually sympathetic and physically reversible option.’
A Heritage Statement has been prepared by Alan Baxter & Associates, in support of this Listed Building Consent application. It says:
‘The proposed works will have a minimal impact on the historic fabric of the station. Significant elements of the station including the station buildings and platform canopies will not be affected by the works.
The existing platform facings and foundations will be retained within the widened platforms, so the platform extension will result in little loss of historic fabric and would be potentially reversible in future.
Where historic paving slabs survive, they will be lifted and re-used where possible as part of the re-surfacing works.
The works are designed to be quick to install, to minimise disruption to passenger services. They will provide larger platform areas to increase capacity at a very busy station.
They will be beneficial to the visual appearance of the station by reducing the piecemeal variation in surface finishings and platform facings, restoring an element of visual uniformity to these areas. The station will appear smarter and more attractive in appearance as a result of the works.’
The Heritage Statement goes into some detail on the station’s history:
‘The station dates to the construction of this section of the Great Western Railway (GWR), in 1836–40. It was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and built under the superintendence of Mr Frere.
It is sited within a curve of the River Avon. Elevated on a viaduct, it is prominent within the local townscape between Southgate and Beechen Cliff and is sited opposite to two early railway hotels, the Royal Hotel and the Argyll Hotel.
The station has undergone a number of alterations since it was built. Brunel’s original station featured a timber hammer-beam train-shed roof spanning the tracks, of a similar design to his surviving train-shed roof at Bristol Temple Meads.
This was removed in 1897 as the supporting columns close to the platform edge interrupted passenger flows. It was replaced with the steel-trussed and timber-edged platform awnings which still exist.
As part of the redevelopment works an elevated signal box was constructed above the platform. The signal box was taken out of service in 1968 and today just a row of windows (which cut through the canopy roof), remain from the structure. There is a corresponding slot in the platform facings beneath the remains of the signal box.
The goods shed was originally sited immediately to the east of the station; it was subsequently redeveloped, although its supporting vaults remain. The platforms were widened by 6 ft in 1893 when the broad gauge tracks were converted to standard gauge.
The west platform was lengthened in 1897 at the same time as the new canopies were installed. The platforms were lengthened again in 1959 to accommodate longer trains.
In accordance with the Great Western Railway Act of 1835, the station environs were developed to complement the station. Manvers Street was built as an approach to the city centre (although not completed as envisaged). The station acts as the termination of the vista down Manvers Street, which is flanked at its entrance by two matching hotels in Bath stone.
The Royal Hotel (c.1845) and the Argyll Hotel (c.1845) are both Grade II listed and make a formal entrance leading from the railway station to Bath city centre. Both are early examples of railway hotels.
The station environs at Bath Spa have undergone dramatic change in the post-war period.
The area north west of the station has been comprehensively redeveloped and is now dominated by the Southgate retail development, recently completed to a faux neoclassical design. Immediately to the west of the former goods shed is the 2009 hi-tech bus station by Wilkinson Eyre. The station’s interiors have been mainly modified by late C20 fittings.”
The following link will take you through to the website where you can have a detailed look at the plans.