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Failing railways: Filth and squalor by the sea

THE INDEPENDENT'S appeal has exposed concern over the many stations, mainline terminals and unstaffed halts that have been deprived of cash for years.

Bournemouth, another historic railway building in a poor state of repair, was a close contender for the title. The station was nominated by Gordon Roe, former bishop of Huntingdon, in Cambridgeshire. "Scaffolding has been up for ever and fences off most of the few seats there are on the platform. When it rains the roof leaks everywhere and there is nowhere to hide. The loos are beyond belief, filthy, most of the cubicles boarded up, no adequate wash facilities and a pervading, repulsive smell," he wrote.

Railtrack said it was aware that Bournemouth, which has been under repair since the 1987 storms, was probably the worst station in the South-east.

A spokesman said the company had agreed a pounds 6.7m package to restore the listed building by spring 2000.

"This will reinstate the roof and really return the station to its former glory." A common thread running through the nominations was the feeling of fear and disgust that travellers felt while waiting for trains.

St James Street in Walthamstow, east London, on the WAGN line to Chingford, was described as "crumbling, dirty, smelly, graffiti-covered and totally uninviting" by one reader who said that, for lone passengers, particularly at night, the perception is of a dangerous, insecure place.

Another described it simply as "disgusting".

WAGN's station at Hackney Downs, east London, boasted graffiti and a smell of urine, while platform indicators have not worked for six months, according to one reader, who found that complaints to staff were often met with rudeness.

"Hackney Downs, like the school of the same name closed by the Government, is obviously a sink station," he wrote.

Birkbeck, which is on the line to Beckenham Junction in south London was "smelly and overgrown", boasting a vandalised ticket office and a loudspeaker system that did not work.

The Independent staff's nomination, Kentish Town West, in north London, was supported by a reader who said that he had not paid a fare there for six years, as it had been impossible to buy one, from staff or a machine, while the "nauseating stench" kept the gangs of local children away.

On The Wrong Track

Bad stations nominated by Independent readers include:

Bexhill, East Sussex

Birmingham New Street, West Midlands

Blackpool, Lancashire

Bournemouth, Dorset

Cambridge Heath, London

Carnforth, Lancashire

Guildford, Surrey

Hackney Downs, London

Kentish Town West, London

London Fields, London

Luton, Bedfordshire

Middlesbrough, Cleveland

Nuneaton, West Midlands

Paddington, London

Rochdale, Greater Manchester

Reedham, Norfolk

Rowland Castle, Hampshire

St James Street, London

South Croydon, south London

Stratford, east London