It has been a busy time at Eridge over the past year!
The East Sussex village railway station hosted its 153rd birthday party yesterday when the Southeast Community Rail Partnership brought the local community together with Southern and other rail industry partners to celebrate the station’s heritage-style restoration.
With financial support from the Railway Heritage Trust, Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has painstakingly restored the station to match the ambience of Spa Valley, the Preserved Railway whose steam trains operate between Eridge and Tunbridge Wells West. Spa Valley shares Eridge station with Southern’s services that run between London Bridge and Uckfield.
The £30,000 Railway Heritage Trust grant recognises the history and architectural interest of the station buildings, opened on 3 August 1868. The once derelict waiting room is a star feature of the restoration, with its wing-backed armchairs, wood panelling, library shelves and framed original architect’s drawings.
The Trust also awarded a grant via Spa Valley towards the creation and installation of six new station name signs for Southern’s platform, consistent in style with Spa Valley’s logo.
The crowning glory is a large pictorial map of the East Sussex rail network as it was in 1900 – much more extensive than today – painted by local artist David Peacock and funded by Rotherfield Parish Council.
Network Rail have invested £2.3 million in footbridge and platform improvements, and are currently undertaking a £1.8m lift project, due for completion by the end of the year, to provide step-free access to Southern’s platform.
The local community has been involved from the very start, when GTR asked for improvement ideas and priorities. Their activities, contributions and collaboration with the rail industry bodies have been coordinated by Sharon Gray of Southeast Communities Rail Partnership, who also organised the birthday party.
Sharon said: “The time seemed right to celebrate all the hard work that has gone into the restoration of this beautiful station, a thank you to all who have been involved in the project. What better way than to hold a birthday party for this lovely old station that has been a working member the local community for 153 years? ”
Southern’s Customer Services Director Chris Fowler said: “This beautifully renovated and improved station is a result of the rail industry working in close partnership with the local community, not just to improve our customers’ experiences as they return to rail travel but to make the station a more valuable asset for the community it serves.
“It’s been an incredible team effort, combining the vital contributions of the Railway Heritage Trust, Rotherfield Parish Council and local artist David Peacock, our co-habitees Spa Valley Railway, Network Rail and their contractors, ourselves and our contractors, and the ideas and enthusiasm of our local customers and neighbours.
“Special thanks are due to Sharon Gray for her supreme effort and success in securing and coordinating the involvement of all our rail and community partners, and for organising this great event today.”
Mark Dodd, Spa Valley Railway Trustee, said: “It’s been truly wonderful to be involved in this multi-organisational, holistic approach to bringing Eridge station back to its former glory. Our volunteers and customers have commented on how well presented the station is. I’d like to express my thanks to the GTR Project Team, NR/BAM Framework Team and the local teams -we’ve truly proved that we can all work together to deliver a station suitable for all of our customers. It’s really a case of Modern meets Heritage.”
Network Rail Southern Regional Director John Halsall said: “Over the last few years, we have been working with stakeholders to improve Eridge station and I am delighted with the results so far. We are committed to restoring the station to its former glory while investing for the future with the recent footbridge upgrade and the current lift installation for step-free access to Platform 1. I’m very grateful to passengers for their patience whilst we carry out these projects.”