Harry Turner's Episodes of Personal History
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or The Confusion of an Open Station


From Ashburys station through to Ardwick, there are vast clearance schemes taking place, with earthmovers and bulldozers flattening the vast expanse of derelict industrial sites and abandoned railway sidings, visible every time one takes the train to Piccadilly. My suspicions that this is all part of the hopeful preparations for the Manchester 2000 Olympics bid have tempted me to break my journey and see what exactly is happening to my old haunts along the 54 bus route, when I used to work at Anchor Chemical Co in Clayton Lane.

However, an article in Guardian 2 confirms all my suspicions - Bradford Colliery, the steel works are gone, though the Bradford Gas Works gasometer still dominates the horizon. The area is now called 'Fastlands' and will be the site of the Olympic Velodrome, whether or not the Games actually come here. I still have massive doubts that they will, but at least they are the reason for considerahle clearance and renovation taking place.

After the pedestrianisation of Market Street, a relatively brief period of newness was ruined by successive digging operations by gas, electricity and sewers, which left the place scarred, followed by various unrelated experiments with 'tactile' paths for the blind which were a menace to the sighted. Then the advent of the 'tramway' led to further upheavals over a long period. So now it's in the process of being dug up and redone to present a tidy spectacle for visiting International Olympic Committee members... Somehow I don't think they'll ever make Manchester look presentable as a city. (And I've been in the vicinity for over 70 years, man and boy, he grumbled).

To add to the fun, Piccadilly has been made into an 'open' station. It all happened rather quietly. After all the platform barriers had been rebuilt, and reduced in number, of course. Travellers have been harried by unmanned barriers for a long time: platforms 1 to 4 were reduced to two barriers, one of which would be closed quite often; no help when a couple of trains are unloading passengers into the fore-court, and a frustrated lot of intending passengers are attempting to infiltrate in the opposite direction because they can see their train preparing to depart!

This state of affairs lasted some months, then last month - no ticket collecters, their booths all boarded up, and free access in and out of the platforms. I assumed there'd been a strike or something, a common reaction judging hy the number of uncollected tickets stuffed into the cracks around the boarded-up booths. No announcement or anything; just an absence of bods to ask about train changes (of which there've been too many of late).

Why all the money was spent replacing the old barriers seems unclear. But Piccadilly is now definitely an open station... ■

Letter to the Varleys, 14/06/1993

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