Not-so-grand Central

Lowestoft Central Station

Lowestoft Central Station

Lowestoft divides neatly into a northern shopping area and a southern resort area, separated by the swing-bridge over the harbour approach.

All this results from the initiative of Samuel Morton Peto (1809-1889), the great civil engineer and entrepreneur, who had moved into Somerleyton Hall, a few miles west, in 1844.

When the Norfolk Railway was built to connect with Peto’s Lowestoft Railway & Harbour Company’s docks in 1845, its terminus was a mile and a half from the existing settlement. The town stretched southwards as its population grew during the nineteenth century.

To this day, Lowestoft Central railway station sits absolutely in the centre of the town. It became Central after the Norfolk & Suffolk railway opened Lowestoft North in 1903. Though the “Central” epithet was dropped in 1971 after Lowestoft North closed, the building still carries an enamel sign with the words “British Railways Lowestoft Central” – one of the few such still in situ anywhere in the Britain.

The station was stripped of its platform awnings in the late 1960s and the heavy timber roof of the concourse disappeared in a 1992 modernisation, leaving passengers to wait for the surviving services to Norwich and Ipswich in a windy circulating area open to the skies.

Arguments about redevelopment of the station’s public areas and the streetscape surrounding it have been running since 2010. The Waveney District Council initially advocating moving the rail lines back so that the surviving historic buildings could be used for commercial development; Network Rail took against that, having been caught out at Cromer and elsewhere in East Anglia, because it would hide the rail operation from passers-by.

Discussions continue amid piecemeal improvements to the surrounding infrastructure:

Whatever results won’t look much like Central Station as it existed until the 1990s, but the station continues to be staffed and heavily used, and there are sufficient historic structures to provide better amenities.

Lots of places have to put up with a couple of bus shelters.

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