Rail passengers in Northampton who have been waiting for months to see the town’s new railway station have finally got the chance this morning.
The new £20m station opened its doors just after 4am this morning (Monday).
Several passengers have already left on early morning trains which began running from around 4.15am, with hundreds more expected through the doors throughout the day.
Staff are on hand throughout the station to advise passengers where to go.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who is due to visit the station later this morning to mark the first day of operation, said: “As part of our long-term economic plan, we are investing record amounts in building a world-class rail network fit for the 21st century.
“I am delighted that passengers in Northampton are able to benefit from this impressive new station, with further improvements to come as the work is completed.
“This, along with the thousands of extra seats being provided by £62 million of government investment, will make a real difference to passengers’ journeys.”
The new station is double the size of the old one and has ten ticket gates.
In the coming week Starbucks, Coffee Republic, WHSmith and Enterprise car rental will all open new outlets within the station building.
In the interim period a temporary coffee station - Cafe Express MK - is selling hot drinks to passengers.
Councillor David Mackintosh, leader of Northampton Borough Council, said: “Our town is benefiting from an unprecedented level of investment, with construction and restoration happening almost everywhere you look.
“This station is a statement of our intent to ensure Northampton is recognised as one of the most progressive places in the country.”
The main entrance to the station is on the car park side of the building - opposite the old station - which provides lift access to the first floor. While the back entrance - up the steps - is round the other side in Black Lion Hill.
Councillor Jim Harker, leader of Northamptonshire County Council, said: “Regeneration work in Northampton is continuing apace and the new railway station is a fitting gateway for the town and the wider county.
“The county council is pleased to have been instrumental, including our critical financial support, in making this tremendous asset for Northampton a reality.
“The county council has continued to manage and oversee the delivery of the project and will continue with the demolition and site landscaping work to completion once the new station is operating.”
South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) funded infrastructure around the new site.
Chair, Dr Ann Limb OBE DL, said: “I am delighted to see this excellent new station facility opening in Northampton at the gateway to our Enterprise Zone.
“This is the result of many years of concerted effort and significant investment by partners, including SEMLEP.
“It will encourage new businesses to locate in Northampton and improve access to jobs and markets.”
Northampton is London Midland’s fifth-busiest station of the 148 it manages, with 2.8 million passengers travelling through the station each year.
Cllr Mackintosh added: “This part of the project will create a multi-storey car park with the capacity to cope with the number of rail users living in and visiting Northampton.
“It will also open the way for removal of the old car park, unlocking valuable land within the Northampton Waterside Enterprise Zone for development.
“The area has been earmarked for commercial or light industrial use, with the possibility of some small retail units nearby.”
Demolition of the old buildings will be finished later this year, and the subsequent multi-storey car park build will then be started.
Northampton Borough Council will work closely with Network Rail on the new car park, which will also feature a bridge, connecting it with the upper level of the new station.