Alcoves and windows remain at the historic station abandoned more than a century ago. For decades the station, in a cutting by Parliament Street, decayed with the area around it, but over the last decade the Baltic Triangle has become a development hotspot. It’s home to dozens of creative businesses, while bars and nightspots have opened. Meanwhile, hundreds of flats have been built and many more are on the way.
Local campaigners now want the station to reopen and Merseytravel is looking into whether it would be possible.
Travellers between Brunswick and Liverpool Central stations on the busy Northern Line can still see the wide cutting where St James station once was. That section of the Northern Line has been closed for the past week so platform repair work can be carried out at other stations. The station opened in 1874. In October 1913, seven people were killed and more than 60 injured after an accident in the station. It closed in 1917 as a wartime cost-cutting measure but never reopened. The old entrances to the station are long gone and the old ticket office in Parliament Street disappeared years ago to be replaced by flats, so today you reach the station site through a metal door near Cains and by descending a long a metal grille staircase to the old platforms.
A station would be incredible for investment
Reopening the station would be a complex and expensive job. But the idea is being taken seriously by Merseytravel as local organisations continue to campaign for it. Baltic Creative, which has redeveloped buildings that are home to dozens of digital and creative businesses, has been leading the campaign.
Its managing director Mark Lawler believes the new station could help bring new jobs to the Baltic.
He said: “We think over the next 10 years there’s opportunity for another million square foot of commercial footprint in the area and all the incredible valuable jobs that come with that.
“But in order for something of that scale to happen, infrastructure needs to support it.
“You’re not able to attract those big companies if they can’t get their people here. And that means good transport links and increasingly an identified need for good parking. And parking essentially needs to be wrapped around the reopening of the station.
“The vital importance, the catalytic effect that you would see from a reopened station would be incredible in terms of investment.”
Merseytravel is considering reopening station
Merseytravel’s chairman Cllr Liam Robinson joined the ECHO on our tour of St James station. It was his first vision to the “fascinating” station itself.
He explained the transport authority was looking to see whether the station could be reopened. But he warned that any reopening would be expensive and time-consuming.
He said: “It is something we have been actively investigating but, as we have been able to see today, it would need a lot of very significant work to be done.
“There are some of the old structures in place, but you would actually need two brand new platforms building off the bedrock that is left behind. You’d need new lift shafts, new waiting areas, new ticket office facilities, so it would be a significant piece of work if we went ahead and brought the station back into use.”
Cllr Robinson estimated the rebuilding could cost £50m or more. So Merseytravel would have to look at whether the plan offered value for money compared to other potential sites elsewhere in the city region and on the Merseyrail network.
He added: “We’d have to take on board that Maghull North is the latest new station we opened, which cost roughly speaking £15m, so in simplistic terms you could have three Maghull Norths for one St James.”
There is signalling and electrical equipment on the platforms that would need to be moved, while timetables would also need to be redrawn to allow for trains to stop at St James.
Cllr Robinson said more detailed work needed to be done to prove the reopening would be viable.
He said: “There’s a lot more happening in the area, and with more going on, that obviously strengthens the case (for the station).
“That’s one of the reasons why, certainly in the short-medium term, we’ll try and improve the bus network so there are new services going through the area. The more people that use those services, it actually can help justify putting a full rail service back in place as well.”