To help understand the current position regarding Carnforth ticket office, outlined below is a chronology of the considerable efforts undertaken by Lancashire County Council and others to try and find a sustainable proposal for maintaining a transport information/ticket office at Carnforth station. You will see that these efforts are continuing – as this develops we will keep you updated.
At its meeting on 8 February 2018, Lancashire County Council approved closing the transport information centres at Preston Bus Station, Nelson and Clitheroe Interchanges and Carnforth Railway Station, subject to consultation, with the outcome to the consultation to be presented to Cabinet for final approval. The County Council does not operate any other transport information centres.
On 9 August 2018, Lancashire County Council’s Cabinet noted that during the consultation referred to above, a number of expressions of interest were received from interested parties to take over the management of some or all of these transport information centres and resolved that officers investigate these and to provide a further update to Cabinet.
An application pack was then sent to those organisations and businesses who had expressed interest, to help them make an initial submission and allowed officers to undertake a basic assessment of the merit of each submission. The written material, process and assessment criteria were based upon those used by the Council previously in similar scenarios.
On 16 May 2019, Lancashire County Council noted the outcomes of the exploration activity undertaken and suitability of the expressions of interest received by the County Council. As part of that discussion, it was noted that a viable application had been received from Leeds-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership for Carnforth Transport Information Centre. The officers reported that this application provided:
‘a comprehensive and well thought out proposal outlining the objectives and plans of the group to maintain the existing service. The application took full consideration of the risks and staffing commitments required to sustain the service and demonstrated strong community benefit proposals evidenced by award winning community skills and experience. The application outlined clear steps intended for a potential service takeover to maintain the current service and to develop the service further with new initiatives.’
In light of this assessment, Cabinet authorised officers to support the transfer of the services provided at Carnforth Information Centre to the Leeds-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership and for the County Council to maintain the services at the ticket office in the meantime. Cabinet also approved the negotiation of termination of property interests at Carnforth Information Centre.
A similar decision was made in respect of Clitheroe Interchange (and the property interests there). The Cabinet also agreed at this point to cease provision of transport information at Preston Bus Station and Nelson Interchange.
Following that decision in May 2019, the Community Rail Partnership have worked with support from Lancashire County Council and other advisors to further develop their proposals with a view to taking over the running of the office. This work has been based on detailed analysis of historical and current business data as well as the organisations own ideas on how best to develop the facility in view of future rail transport and other developments .
Unfortunately, following a meeting of the Community Rail Partnership’s Board a few weeks ago, the Board notified the County Council that they were withdrawing their proposal. We do not know the precise reasons for this, but understand it was around the long term financial viability of the facility.
On receiving this news, the County Council have gone back to a second organisation who had showed an interest in taking over the facility in Carnforth earlier in the year. The purpose of the County Council in returning to this organisation was to see if, following the withdrawal of the Community Rail Partnership they may still be interested in submitting a more detailed proposal and to discuss this again. The County Council has also made it clear that they would be delighted if any organisation were to come forward to offer a service, whilst in the meantime making preparations to close the office at Carnforth.