Crewe bus station - little bus dial-a-ride

Cheshire East Council chiefs are being urged to make sure Crewe bus station is brought up to scratch ready for the long-awaited Royal Arcade redevelopment, writes Stephen Topping.

A new bus station is part of Cheshire East Council’s vision for Royal Arcade – which is also set to include a new cinema, gym, bowling alley, shops and a multi-storey car park.

But a CEC scrutiny committee was told this week that the town’s crumbling bus station is only due to be replaced once work is completed on the retail and leisure units at Royal Arcade.

Crewe and District Bus Users Group has been calling for work to take place at the bus station over the past two years.

Chairman Carol Jones said: “It’s disgusting, it’s awful and each day it gets worse and worse.

“This is where people are going to come into Crewe, this is where people are going to have first impressions of Crewe.”

Regeneration at Royal Arcade has been a long time coming after CEC bought the site back in April 2015.

Provided it secures planning permission this year, the council hopes to start demolishing units this autumn, before construction on the retail and leisure scheme begins next year and ends in 2023.

Cllr Suzanne Brookfield, Labour member for Crewe East, warned that CEC’s timetable for Royal Arcade has been delayed over the years – and called for the new station to come first.

She said: “As someone who uses the bus station regularly, it’s worse than terrible, it’s absolutely appalling.

“Build the bus station first then surely others would come – the developer, the investors would all be encouraged to see a brand-new bus station. Surely it’s a bit of a chicken and egg.”

Independent Cllr Suzie Akers Smith, CEC’s cycling and walking champion, added: “We need to include the bus station and do it now.

“Because we don’t want to encourage people to come in their cars, we want people to come and not bring their cars.”

Members of CEC’s environment and regeneration overview and scrutiny committee also urged CEC to encourage Arriva – which leases the station from the council – to improve it as soon as possible.

But Peter Skates, director of growth and enterprise at CEC, claimed the building of a new bus station after the retail and leisure facilities at Royal Arcade would be the preferred option to prevent disruption to the bus network before Royal Arcade’s regeneration takes place.

He said: “The aspiration is to have a first-class facility, but continuity of the service during construction was also a key consideration.

“We will continue to work with Arriva to try and ensure that the quality is as high as possible.

“Arriva does have obligations under its occupancy and lease terms to maintain a quality of bus station – so it’s not just aspirations, it’s also obligations under the terms.”

Mr Skates also suggested that the way Royal Arcade’s redevelopment will be funded could also prevent the new bus station being built first.

“It’s also there to incentivise the developer to bring forward the retail and leisure element at the earliest possible time,” he added.

“I will certainly have a look to see if there are any opportunities [to bring the bus station plans forward], but I think the funding cocktail will be prescriptive in that process.”

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