Cash row prompts fears bus station work will be purely cosmetic

Bus passengers hoping for a major revamp of the facilities in Cumbernauld appear to be in for a disappointment
Bus passengers hoping for a major revamp of the facilities in Cumbernauld appear to be in for a disappointment

The refurbished Cumbernauld bus station will lack electronic departure screens, toilets of any description, including, crucially, facilities for the disabled, in a row over money.

Hamcap (Cumbernauld), the centre’s owner, has linked the issues to the shock departure of North Lanarkshire Council and Strathclyde Partnership from the heavily delayed project.

Work currently being undertaken involves the installation of new ceilings, additional CCTV, seating and some signage, as well as having heating installed for the first time.

But the omissions have prompted Hamcap (Cumbernauld) to issue an extraordinary appeal.

A spokesman said: “Hamcap is currently undertaking a six-figure investment on the north and south bus waiting areas.

“This is without any element of public funding for an area which we neither charge nor recover running costs from SPT or the bus companies to use, which has lacked investment for decades and has suffered from perpetual vandalism.

“The council had no plans to introduce toilet facilities in its proposal.

“However if SPT wishes to invest in providing and maintaining toilet facilities for its drivers and passengers, in addition to installing modern real time information panels, our client would be happy to see this investment and would actively encourage dialogue on it.”

However, SPT quickly gave the appeal short shrift.

A spokeswoman said: “SPT was working in partnership with North Lanarkshire Council to improve the bus facilities in this area.

“However, Hamcap decided to move forward without either party and the project is to be delivered and funded by it.”

The sticking point has prompted protest from key figures who claim the refurbishment is now purely cosmetic.

Andrew Stephen, of Cumbernauld Commuters’ Association, said: “A lick of battleship grey paint can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. The north bus stop waiting area looks more like prison facilities and is decidedly much worse than before.”

Cumbernauld Community Forum pushed the matter to the top of the agenda for the group’s meeting last night (Tuesday).

Member Billy Lees believes that SPT should be persuaded to get back on board and NLC also has a role to play – unlocking £3.2 million bequeathed by Campsies Centres, a private company set up by the council to oversee the town centre, which will cease to operate next year.

He said: “If the town centre can’t do any better than this, why is the council not being asked to help?

“The truth is that there is still money in the pot from this fund. Why can’t that be used? And why is the community not being asked what it wants?

“It is just not good enough.”

Campsies’ chairman and Cumbernauld councillor Allan Graham clarified: “Campsies Centre and the council had developed proposals for a £2.2 million upgrade of the bus stances delivered through a public-private partnership.

“Despite our best efforts, agreement could not be reached with Hamcap and it decided to take the plans forward on its own.

“This is disappointing because the project was benefitting from public funding through the partnership and would have seen significantly improved facilities for Cumbernauld.

“It would not now be appropriate for Campsies to use public funding to provide toilets or other facilities to a solely private enterprise.

“The council will, however, continue to support Hamcap and the owners of the Antonine Centre to attract new retailers and businesses to the town centre.

“We are now actively looking at how best to use the assets for the benefit of the town and its residents, including a community grant fund, with at least £250,000 to support local groups.

“We will announce more details in the near future.”

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth MSP Jamie Hepburn was hoping the refurbishment would be more ‘dramatic’.

He said: “While a long overdue cosmetic refurbishment of the stances is welcome, I share the frustration of many in the town that we seem to be missing an opportunity to do something more dramatic with the bus station.

“My understanding is that the Campsies board was willing to spend money on a larger refurbishment but, between the council and the Town Centre owners, no agreement was ever reached.

“I will try and press the owners to see whether they are willing to clarify the extent of the current refurbishment and whether they will consider looking for additional funding to properly develop this important hub for people arriving in the town.

“As the centre is privately owned, it is likely that the owners would need to be willing to make a significant commitment before large scale investment from public bodies such as the Campsies Board or SPT would be feasible.”