Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 17:38 UK

Verdict on UK's best rail station

By Brendon Williams
BBC News

Flint train station
The station has benefited from 2m worth of investment

The last time I saw Flint railway station, in 2002, I would have found it hard to believe that one day it would be voted the UK's best.

Six years later, it has benefited from a 2m facelift and now boasts a tidy, welcoming waiting room - with a heater for those damp winter, even summer days.

It has been named UK Station of the Year at the National Transport Awards in London, and, credit where it's due, this is a different station to the one I saw six years ago.

The refurbishment is thanks to a partnership including Flintshire council, Network Rail, Arriva Trains Wales and the Railway Heritage Trust.

I visited the station to ask passengers for their verdict.

Leanne Pierce and Thomas Bay
Seriously, best in the UK - are you having a laugh?
Leanne Pierce, passenger, with Thomas Bay
Leanne Pierce, 18, who uses the service from Wrexham every day, said: "There's nowhere to get anything to eat or drink, and you can't risk going into town in case you miss your train.

"Seriously, best in the UK - are you having a laugh?

"I suppose there's always someone in the ticket office, so that's good, but the train service is terrible. It's always late.

"They can't have judged it on the train service, otherwise it would be the worst."

Customer toilet

Flint train station
Since the work, passenger numbers have risen by nearly 16%

While there is certainly no buffet for passengers, they do at least have somewhere warm to sit.

The inclusion of a customer toilet is also a major improvement.

Mike Moore, who has worked at the ticket desk for eight years, said: "We have had nothing but praise from customers.

"Before, it was cold, damp and miserable.

"We had an old gas fire here before, but now we've got modern heating and ventilation which can go up to 31 degrees if I want it to."

However, he added: "I don't think there's enough room behind the new counter.

The waiting room at Flint train station
Customers now have somewhere to sit - and there are even heaters

"I'm supposed to be able to fit another colleague in here and it's a bit tight."

Flintshire council is proud of the shiny new waiting room and the station's new accolade.

Listed building

David Blainey, the council's head of transportation, said: "It was not a particularly pleasant environment for people to work here.

"And people had to stand in an open passage to get tickets. It was dark and people had to wait outside.

"It was a listed building that was slowly rotting away.

"But now we're very pleased with it. It's much better for everyone who uses it.

"As well as making it a pleasant place to work, a lot of the features have been retained and enhanced."

Some passengers, though, are less enthusiastic.

John Beaumont, from Holywell, Flintshire, said: "I'm astonished it's been called the best station in the UK.

"I'd like to know who sponsored the awards.

"I rang earlier to get accurate train times and the times I were given were 20 minutes out, so I've had to come and see for myself.

"I'm absolutely amazed they still haven't managed to sort out punctuality."

On the building improvements, he said: "I'd be happy if they tackled the anti-social behaviour that goes on here at night.

"But there are a few new things - they've re-designed the interior and I think it's bullet-proof glass, so that's a start."

Pride

Despite the scepticism of some customers, though, Flintshire council are pleased their station has been voted the best in the UK.

Councillor Tony Sharps, the council's executive member for environment, said: "This is an excellent achievement and everyone who has worked on this project should feel very proud at the end result. It is a credit to the town of Flint".

The award, presented at a ceremony attended by Transport secretary Ruth Kelly, will go on display at the refurbished facility.

Passenger numbers using the station have already risen by more than 15%, and rail bosses say work will be completed on a similar waiting room on the Chester-bound platform later in the year.

Flint railway station still might not make the list of top places to see before you die, but compared to a few years ago, it's come a long way.




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