Downham Market station highly commended in National Rail Awards ceremony
Community representatives and railway staff came together on Friday to celebrate an accolade for a West Norfolk station.
Downham was highly commended in the Small Station of the Year category at the 2020 National Rail Awards ceremony, held online due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Managing director for Thameslink and Great Northern Tom Moran, pictured second from left, presented the certificate to station manager David Hughes, far left. Also pictured from right to left are councillor Alan Pickering, Sue Sampson of the local Women’s Institute and mayor Becky Hayes.
Downham was one of only two highly commended small stations in the National Rail Awards, the other being Hindley, near Wigan. Chirk station, near Wrexham, won the top award.
Mr Moran said: “What really makes Downham Market stand out is how it looks and how well it’s cared for. It’s an early Victorian Grade II-listed building that complements the historic town, its heritage celebrated with old pictures in the waiting room. The station is set off beautifully by its plant displays, and we are grateful to the volunteers from the local Women’s Institute who create and tend them.
“We’re making scores of our stations more attractive as part of our multimillion-pound improvement programme, which includes refurbishments, landscaping and artwork, with many local communities contributing. And from this December all our trains on the Fen Line will be doubling their capacity, going from four carriages to eight carriages.”
Councillor Hayes said: “We are proud, as a town, of this achievement. The station has character to it and it always looks beautiful, which is testament to the work of the Women’s Institute.”
The WI leads the volunteers who look after the station’s outstanding plant displays.
Judges visited every station entered for the awards, rating them on how well they are run for passengers, including safety, facilities, customer-friendliness and presentation.
A spokeswoman for the Women’s Institute said: “We have pride in our town and the station is the first glimpse people see of it. We enjoy the camaraderie of looking after the gardens. It’s great fun and it keeps us fit.”
In 2017, with the help of the Railway Heritage Trust, the station was restored and redecorated with new signs and paintwork in the livery of Network SouthEast, the British Rail division launched 30 years before. The restoration also involved close cooperation with West Norfolk Council and Fen Line Users Association (FLUA).