Kirkgate Railway Station has officially re-opened after a £5.6m redevelopment.
The two-year renovation project followed the Express’ award-winning Staff Our Station campaign, which called on politicians and rail bosses to take action at the dilapidated station.
Work started to bring the Grade II listed station, which first opened in 1840, back to its former glory in 2013.
The project was led by Groundwork Wakefield, with partner organisations including Wakefield Council, the Department for Transport, Network Rail and West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
Representatives of all the organisations attended an official ceremony this morning (Monday).
Wakefield Council leader Peter Box said: “I think it’s great that after so much campaigning, particularly by the Wakefield Express, that we are here today. It’s the second station opening in two years and it is great for Wakefield and helps with regeneration, but also it’s a great gateway into the city. When people come now to either Kirkgate or Westgate, they have a great first impression of Wakefield.
“I think a station isn’t now just a place where people get on a train or get off a train, it is a catalyst for economic growth and that’s what it is going to do.”
The Express campaign followed a series of brutal attacks at the station including assault, robbery and the rape of a female passenger in the subway.
We decided that commuters needed to, and had the right, to feel safe.
The campaign was backed by thousands of our readers, local councillors and politicians including the former secretary of state for transport, Lord Andrew Adonis, who called Kirkgate “the worst medium to large station in Britain” in 2009.
Joanne Roney, chief executive of Wakefield Council, said: “There were appalling crimes committed here. This is not a station that I, as a woman, was comfortable using. I know lots of women would not use this station for fear of safety with all the issues here and now it’s stunning.
“You get off the train, you walk through the platform, straight out to a lovely open plan safe, secure environment.”
Andrew Jones, transport minister, said: “I remember the station as a symbol of urban decay, a building which stank of rot and which had a general sense that nobody had invested and nobody cared. And now there has been a transformation from one of the worst stations in our country to one of the very best stations in our country.
“That is a testament to the work of everybody who has been involved in it.”
The upgraded station is the first phase of a £27m development programme to be invested in Kirkgate over the next five years and marks the start of £38m of future regeneration for the southern part of the city.
Harjinder Sandhu, operations director at Groundwork Wakefield said: “The station gives people another iconic gateway to come into the city or leave the city.
“We always thought of it as being the catalyst for the regeneration of Kirkgate as a whole and we are obviously starting to see that with the West Yorkshire Archives new building just a few hundred yards from the station.
“The council have got a master plan in terms of redevelopment regarding the highways in the area. We are very pleased to be the inception of that.”
The new station also includes a cafe, retail space, offices, meeting rooms for the local business community and incubation units for start-up businesses.
Numerous organisations worked in partnership to make the redevelopment possible including The Railway Heritage Trust, Northern Rail, Grand Central, the Yorkshire and Humber 2007-2013 European Regional Development Fund Programme, The Headley Trust, G F Tomlinsons, Garfield Weston and Wakefield Civic Society.