Four rail stations in East nominated as UK’s ‘best-loved’

Published on: Monday, 22 May 2023
Last updated: Monday, 22 May 2023

Beccles train station platform

Above: Station adopter volunteers at Beccles rail station. Credit: Greater Anglia

Four train stations in East Anglia have been nominated as the best in the region and will battle it out to be crowned the ‘UK’s Best-Loved Station.’

They are among 48 stations nominated for the ‘World Cup of Stations 2023’ – an annual competition supported by the Rail Delivery Group and the Community Rail Network.

This year’s competition takes place during Community Rail Week (22-28 May) to showcase community rail and the benefits railways bring to residents, the environment and the local economy.

The four stations in the East region are Beccles, Lowestoft, in Suffolk, Southminster, in Essex, and Thetford, in Norfolk, all managed by Greater Anglia.

Lowestoft has seen the development of an amazing community hub in the original station building by three local volunteer station adopters (working as the Lowestoft Central group) and Community Rail Norfolk, supported by Greater Anglia. They have created a multi-purpose room which can be used for exhibitions or meetings and developed a tourism hub and shop.

Southminster has become home to the first Men’s Shed in England to be located at a railway station.

Beccles was nominated for its thriving community-owned café and meeting space in the old station building. The community room is available for rent for or business gatherings, training days, exercise classes, and more.

Thetford has become a wildlife haven due to the remarkable efforts of the local volunteer station adopter team who spend many hours on the station. As well as creating lovely station gardens which received a “Thetford in Bloom” award and a ‘Wildlife Friendly Stations’ accreditation, they have installed bat and swift boxes to help support the populations of these threatened species.

Over 100 nominations were whittled down to 48 by TV presenter Tim Dunn in the competition that was last held in 2019. They now face each other in a series of mini-battles to be crowned World Cup of Stations champion 2023.

Each of the nominees are from one of 11 regions, with four bonus stations selected by Tim Dunn.

The stations from the East will face stiff competition from stations in the South East, South West and London. The station with the most votes from each of the groups will head to the semi-final on 25 May, culminating in the final on 26 May when this year’s winner will be crowned the UK’s best-loved station.

People can vote for their favourite station from the East on Monday 22 May via #WorldCupofStations or @RailDeliveryGrp.

Jonathan Denby, Greater Anglia’s Head of Corporate Affairs, said, “I’m delighted that four of our stations have been put forward as some of the UK’s best. We are committed to improvements at stations to make them attractive and welcoming for passengers.

"We are therefore grateful for the support of our community rail partnerships, volunteers and partners for helping us to put rail at the heart of the community, through mutually beneficial projects which turn our stations into thriving community hubs.”

Jacqueline Starr, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: Day in, day out stations up and down the country are proving to be at the very heart of the communities and this year during Community Rail Week, we want to shine a light on the very best stations in England, Scotland and Wales.

“All of the stations are making a positive impact on their local community, whether that’s supporting local businesses, being used for a social space or making the local environment better by being more sustainable, whatever they’re doing to make a difference, we want to celebrate.”

Tim Dunn, TV presenter and shortlist judge, said: “I had the tricky task of selecting the shortlist of 48 stations - tricky, because it represents the work of 48 groups of chuffing ace volunteers.

“The time, energy and love each group gives is because of a love of our shared railway and their communities too. It might seem bonkers, but this competition showcases the hard work of hundreds countrywide, then amplifies and celebrates all in community rail. Remember: like a football World Cup, the winners each day need more and more support - in every battle, it's the one with the most votes who wins!”

Barry Darch, Mayor of Beccles, said: “Beccles is proud of its station. It's been great to see how it has improved, following the provision of the passing loop and extra platform. The station gardeners have done a great job in creating a very attractive environment.

“Why don't you enjoy the flowers on the platforms and go over the footbridge to walk up the Avenue to the Common? On the way back, the Station Cafe awaits. Come on, Beccles, let's get behind the station and vote.”

Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, said: “Community Rail partnerships and thousands of ‘station friends’ volunteers the length and breadth of Britain are mobilising en masse, engaging local people and partners to raise awareness about sustainable travel by rail, and get people enthused about its many benefits.”

Over 1,200 stations across Britain are supported by station adoption groups, made up entirely of volunteers, that help to make stations welcoming and safe, bring people together and add value to their communities. Often the work of these groups extends beyond basic upkeep, incorporating community gardening and food growing, local arts projects, and workshops and visits with children and young people.

More than 100 nominations were received for this year's competition, recognising the efforts of so many across the country in the following categories:

  • Creating social spaces – stations rejuvenated by local adoption groups who are creating spaces for the local community
  • Supporting local business – adoption groups using station spaces to host and celebrate local businesses
  • Education stations – educational spaces and workshops arranged by adoption groups held in their station
  • Tourism stations – adoption groups using their station to promote local attractions
  • Sustainable stations – environmental efforts by local community groups to improve their station’s green credentials
Southminster Men's Shed volunteers

Above: Southminster Men's Shed volunteers at the station. Credit: Essex CRP

Thetford adopters

Above: Thetford adopters with their Wildlife Friendly Stations accreditation

Lowestoft rail station

Above: Hanging baskets and heritage signage at Lowestoft rail station. Credit: Wherry Lines CRP