New bus station for: Leicester

Saturday 16th July 2022

It’s been a busy few weeks for new bus station openings. Joining Stevenage (see Tuesday’s blog) is the city of Leicester which unveiled its all new St Margaret’s Bus Station to the public on Sunday 26th June. I was able to pay a visit last Sunday to check out the new facilities.

Whereas Stevenage was a relocation, St Margaret’s is a rebuild on the site of the old bus station. It follows the same transformation the city performed on its other bus station, Haymarket, six years ago.

There’s no doubt Leicester is one to watch. It has exciting plans to make buses play an important part in city life and the two new bus stations certainly portray a modern attractive image with greatly improved facilities for passengers.

Let’s look at St Margaret’s first, as it’s the most recent development.

The footprint has increased just a smidgeon compared to the old bus station and, like in Stevenage, you really do get the feeling of lots of space – something other new bus stations have definitely lacked in recent times (Northampton and Exeter, I’m looking at you). In fact, at the risk of being corrected in the comments with a shoal of other examples, I’d say St Margaret’s Bus Station offers the most space for passengers of any bus station in Britain. Just take a look at the concourse in the following photograph and tell me where else you’ll find so much space?

As well as space, the city are keen to portray the transformation as one incorporating “high eco-standards of the project” resulting in a “net zero carbon station”.

The official blurb states:

“The building was almost completely demolished and stripped back to its partial steelwork frame that was reused in line with the high eco-standards of the project. By reusing major elements of the previous building and retaining and repairing the existing concrete on the main area for bus arrivals and departures, the ‘embodied’ carbon cost of constructing the new building has been dramatically reduced by an equivalent of over 575 tonnes.”

“The building has an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) with the highest possible rating of A+ and will operate as a fully net zero carbon building.”

The rebuild has cost £14.3 million and taken around 18 months to complete.

It’s impressive. As well as lots of space (have I mentioned that yet?), the concourse is fully glazed creating a very welcome bright interior with lots of natural light. There are 24 bays with drive on and reverse off arrangements for 21 of them (the other three are side loaders at both bus station ends) and there’s a large parking area for layover buses behind the bays which buses reverse on to, with humps to let drivers know when to stop.

As in Stevenage there’s an information point, which impressively was manned early last Sunday morning, but, again as in Stevenage, with someone who (complete with high viz wearing) looked more to do with security than a bus company. However, I observed him answer a multitude of enquiries about bus and coach departures as well as queries about where to find facilities in the city centre, and he was doing a great job in helping people. It’s just a pity this isn’t portrayed as a professional and friendly visitor assistance point rather than a rather official looking security dominated outlet.

A sign of the times is there was absolutely no printed information about bus routes and times available for passengers to take, nor any dispensers to hold them. What a greatly missed opportunity.

However, there is a small newsagents incorporated into the concourse which sells magazines and newspapers – even though they’re all available online!

As you can see the concourse is very large with lots of seats including two ‘breakfast bar’ type arrangements ….

….which would have just been topped off nicely if usb points had been incorporated as you get in airport terminals these days.

There’s also space for a café which looked as though it would be opening soon …

…. and very smart it looks too, so hopefully won’t be a downmarket one.

There’s also plenty of tactile flooring throughout the concourse to help those with sight impediments get around more easily.

Each departure bay has eight seats and a wide exit to an automatic door which opens when a vehicle is on the stand.

There are electronic displays showing the next three departures as well as static departure lists at each bay including a route diagram….

…. and there are very clear displays showing buses by destination or route number.

These aren’t just for departures from this bus station, but also show bus stops throughout the city centre, including Haymarket bus station.

Electronic departure displays are liberally displayed around the concourse and there’s clearly going to be more installed in the near future.

Toilet facilities are excellent and I really hope the contractor is able to keep them in the pristine clean condition I found them in on Sunday.

It looks like there’s quite a significant provision been made for Arriva staff, with no less than four doors marked for Arriva staff only which made me concerned for Stagecoach, Skylink, Kinchbus and National Express staff, wondering where they go.

Talking of National Express, they’ve taken over the last five stands (SV to SZ) for their departures as well as having their own sales counter alongside two ticket vending machines.

I was impressed to see so many passengers waiting for coach departures and buying tickets.

Two of the five stands (SY and SZ) at the side end of the bus station are nearside loading making it easy to stow luggage and for any passengers using wheelchairs to board.

The other three stands have a wider boarding area for the same purpose.

But, and it’s a rather big BUT, up at the other end of the concourse, bays SB and SC have other coach companies departing, including Flixbus ….

…. where there are no such facilities.

Goodness knows how luggage is stowed but at least wheelchairs will be able to use the lift if the coach pulls right up to the end of the bay.

Interestingly stand SA for Skylink using standard buses, is another side boarder so could easily accommodate side boarding of coaches. I’m surprised that bay hasn’t been allocated for coaches.

That was the only flaw I found and I’d say overall the £14.3 million has been well spent.

As is the nearby Haymarket bus station which had its transformation back in 2016 at a cost of £13.5 million. Whereas St Margaret’s is the “county” bus station; Haymarket is the “city” bus station which First Bus use as well as Arriva.

First Bus are introducing bright attractive branding on some high profile routes.

It has 23 stands, all drive in and reverse off again….

….. and was obviously designed by the same architects as it has similar departure bay arrangements and impressive clear signs and departure listings.

There’s also a retail unit and an information point, which again, was manned early on Sunday morning with a very friendly man who told me all about the two bus stations.

The public concourse is very long and narrower than St Margaret’s so there’s only room for six seats at each departure stand.

In fact there are hardly any seats at all – I suppose reflecting the higher frequencies of the ‘city’ bus services using it compared to St Margaret’s – but it does seem a shame to have made such little provision for seats and is a stark comparison to its new neighbour. No ‘breakfast bars’ here. Nothing.

I rather liked the huge wall murals with their fantastic nostalgic photographs of the city.

There’s also more clean and well maintained toilets.

As well as a repeat of the helpful which bus to catch and where posters as seen at St Margaret’s I also spotted a local street map with an index of streets showing the square on the grid where they can be found. Very useful for those without Google maps.

There’s a helpful electronic display showing occupancy of bus stands to bus drivers as they approach the bus station although I’m not sure what they’re meant to do if the intended stand is occupied.

All in all, catching buses from Leicester’s bus stations has become a real pleasure. And it doesn’t end there.

Bus stops have also been given a makeover with the new logo evident as well as more helpful static displays in city centre shelters.

It’s all part of the city’s “big bus plan” which you can read more about at leicesterbuses.co.uk. It’s a good read.

As mentioned already, both bus stations are close to each other – no more than a 2-3 minute walk between them – but it’s a pity the railway station is on the south side of the city centre which is a more lengthy walk – more like 15-20 minutes. But there are clear maps on display to show which way to go.

Finally, I noticed First Bus have a facility for their staff close to both bus stations which they call a “control centre” which must reassure passengers there is some local control and a local presence.

City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby is quoted as saying “the new St Margaret’s bus station is an important project for Leicester and the completion of this fantastic new building marks the beginning of a revival of this part of the city. This new investment is providing a huge boost for public transport.”

I agree.

Roger French

31 thoughts on “New bus station for: Leicester

Add yours

  1. I’m impressed with the new bus stations in Leicester . . . and all seemingly done without franchising!! It’s a shame about the lack of printed publicity . . . maybe it’s us dinosaurs that just can’t “get with it”!!

    Mind you . . . in Leigh Bus Station on Thursday there was a good range of timetable leaflets, including a current leaflet for the Vantage Busway . . . but several of the others were dated 2019; I wonder how many were still current??

    A tiny typo . . . Leicester doesn’t have a “bug bus plan”!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Worth noting the stands at the entrance/exit of St Margaret’s are also used by “out of hours” departures on routes that operate when the terminal building is closed, e.g. Skylink, X45 etc. Previously they used the National Express bays on Gravel Street but wasn’t always clear on where exactly.

    The “Arriva doors” aren’t as exciting as it may appear, one is a staff toilet and another a store room. There is to be a staff rest room upstairs but this isn’t open yet.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. And each of these bus stations will have more passengers in a day than most of the (£20M a time) new rail stations will have in a year!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. If only Lincoln had looked at Leicester BEFORE building their new station/wind tunnel/pigeon coop. Unglazed panels to “stop the station getting too hot/deterring the homeless”, disabled toilets that DON’T use RADAR keys but a smart card that costs a fiver, and an information desk that is now a watch repair shop. Also, no room for coaches or NX services.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lincoln bus station was always an unwanted afterthought for both the city council and the major local landowner (Lincs Co-Op) who were only really interested in building more car parking space – which was made blatantly evident when their lovely multi-story car park was opened with much fanfare in good time for the flagship Xmas Market whereas the bus station was left incomplete. Ironically only the bottom two floors of the car park are in regular use, which shows how much of a white elephant it is.

      I suspect Leicester’s designers looked at Lincoln and thought “Yep, that’s how *not* to do it.”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Leicester has always been a forward looking local authority, even in municipal bus operating days. I remember an Omnibus Society visit to the city transport headquarters on Charles Street in the late 1970s where we were shown around by their legendary general manager, Geoffrey Hilditch. Ever since bus deregulation I’ve felt that well run, municipal bus operations have been greatly missed, Leicester being one of them. At least the city council are still actively involved in promoting public transport through projects such as upgrading its bus stations and providing travel information.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. And great that departure times are displayed (albeit I would prefer timetables so you can work out your return trip as well), unlike the stupidity at Gloucester, where you only get the next departures listed on the screens, assuming they are working at all, and no way for arriving passengers to check their homeward journey time after the enquiry window has closed. I did hear someone say they did not want timetables displayed as they look untidy, no idea of the truth of that.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In the next twelve months the City Council are planning to tender a city centre bus with electric vehicles to link all the bus and the rail stations. Commendably they accept this may not be a success after the two year trial period , in which case the vehicles will be cascaded on to the tendered bus network. Very sensible use of scarce resources bearing in mind Leicester was unaccountably not awarded any money for its BSIP plan

    Liked by 1 person

  8. We in Cardiff await with VERY bated breath for our new bus station (we haven’t had one since 2016) … which we already know will be far too small.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I didn’t realize that Leicester had two bus stations like it’s East Mercian neighbour Nottingham does,or did as last time I was in Nottingham one of them seemed to have shut down (the one under the shopping centre).The only time I’ve ever been to Leicester on a bus was years ago on an overnight National Express from Middlesbrough to Bristol and it called in to Leicester bus station,not sure which one,at about 0500 for a break.

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      1. Technically, Newcastle has two bus stations plus a coach station, though the bus stations are laid out as though one – Eldon Square has Stands A to K (missing I) and Haymarket has Stands L to Y (missing O), after all they are just around the corner from each other.
        Amazingly, this latter fact does not make Newcastle a city/town with the closest together multiple number of bus stations. By my reckoning the two bus stations in Newport, South Wales (Friar’s Walk and Market Square) are the closest, separated by a two-bus length yellow box junction across Corn Street and Skinner Street which cross between the exit/entry from one to the other although buses do not usually drive through both stations.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’d classify a coach as a type of bus but a bus isn’t a type of coach!As a toad is a kind of frog but a frog isn’t a type of toad!Worswick Street bus station is still there too but not used so the same as a disused railway station that still has it’s platforms thinking about;Monkwearmouth, Greatham and Grangetown in the north east.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Kevin, you obviously haven’t been in Newcastle recently if you think Worswick Street is still there. It was demolished last year!

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      4. Been there about 20 times this year as I have to visit the hospitals there frequently but I don’t normally walk past Worsick Street and it would have been about a year ago I walked past it and surprise, surprise it was being used as a car park.That and the Eldon Square Bus Concourse where the ones I used the most in the 1980’s.Worsick Street was owned by Northern, Haymarket by United, Marlborough Crescent (don’t think that I ever used that one?) either Northern or United not sure which,Gallowgate by United and the Bus Concourse by the PTE.

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      5. Liverpool has 2 bus stations, but both are inadequate to deal with the amount of traffic, which is typical of most of the Merseytravel bus stations, Queen Square is so inadequate that some routes including all the Cross River routes stop in Sir Thomas Street instead

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      6. It had 3 until recently but I believe that the National Coach station has shut.Queen Street isn’t really a bus station more of a street with a load of bus stops down it, very unusual!

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      7. Liverpool One (Canning Place) bus station is used by National Express, Megabus and FLIXBUS and is very much still open.

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      8. Newcastle Worswick Street bus station must be so be some sort of record, that the the bus station itself was still around, for around 35 years after it closed as a bus station, almost every bus station is demolished & redeveloped very quickly, after closing down

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      9. The old United bus station in Northallerton is still there and the building exactly the same as it was but sadly uses by, suprise suprise!, something to do with cars Kwik Fit I think.Passengers now have to stand in the street outside of the Buck Inn to wait for buses and until about the last 10 years there wasn’t even a bus shelter there as North Yorkshire Council don’t like public transport unless it’s park and ride/parkways which aren’t really public transport anyhow.The United bus station in Rothbury is also still there and I believe a vets now for which it’d seem rather large but I expect that they own large animals like horses up there.

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  10. Used refreshed St.Margarets this morning for first time to catch Skylink. Walked in front door, glanced at high level real time stated Stand SG which is clearly marked in large letters by stand also able to read real time above stand door saying it was departing in 13 minutes. Bus destination visible through window. Plenty of proper seats in bus station to sit down on, although customers were allowed to board Skylink 10 minutes before it departed. Excellent.

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  11. Used refreshed St.Margarets this morning for first time to catch Skylink. Walked in front door, glanced at high level real time stated Stand SG which is clearly marked in large letters by stand also able to read real time above stand door saying it was departing in 13 minutes. Bus destination visible through window. Plenty of proper seats in bus station to sit down on, although customers were allowed to board Skylink 10 minutes before it departed. Excellent.
    They’ve obviously taken your advice to move it from stand SA.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stand SG was always the intended stand for Skylink when the bus station is open.
      There is a glossy leaflet/booklet ‘Your guide to the NEW St Margaret’s Bus Station’ which lists all the routes serving Leicester city centre and the stops which they serve (including at the two bus stations) which was available on the opening day. This shows that Skylink runs from stand SG, with a second entry for Skylink of ‘(out of bus station closed)’ – presumably meant to be ‘out of hours bus station closed’ or similar – which is shown as stand SA.

      Like

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