Virgin Trains is to restore one of Waverley Station’s hidden gems, years after an intricate mosaic floor was uncovered by accident during upgrade works to its waiting room.
The original flooring, dating back to the Victorian era, had been hidden for decades following work by British Rail to modernise the area.
It is due to be restored to its former glory next year as part of a programme by Virgin Trains to refurbish and renew first class lounges and waiting rooms on the east coast route connecting Edinburgh to London.
The original flooring first re-emerged in 2014 when builders chipped away a section of concrete to reveal the ornate, colourful design that was a key feature of the original Victorian dining room.
A partial restoration was undertaken last year as part of a programme that also stripped away panelling to reveal the original walls and wooden ceiling.
Virgin Trains, which took over the east coast passenger franchise in March, has worked with Network Rail and the Rail Heritage Trust to complete the restoration of the waiting room and restore the mosaic floor to its former glory.
Sections of the mosaic design have been damaged or destroyed in the intervening years and the work due to start this winter will involve replacing them with new, specially-designed tiles that compliment the original design.
Andy Savage, Executive Director of the Railway Heritage Trust, said: “Sadly, society went through a period when the glories of Victorian architecture were treated with scorn, or neglect, and BR’s alterations to the former dining room came into this category.
“The features were all left in situ, but modern flooring and ceilings hid them and damaged them. East Coast Trains approached us last year when they found what they had, and we were able to fund a partial restoration of the room, at a cost of £150,000.
“Despite this much of the historic ambience of the room is still hidden, but East Coast made sure that it was not further damaged in the alterations. Although we were able to expose the ceiling and mosaic in the new public area, the available finances were not enough to do any repairs to the mosaic, and some areas had to be left with mortar in place of the missing mosaic tiles.
“I am delighted that Virgin Trains East Coast have been able to work with us so that we are jointly funding a further £25,000 worth of work to be able to restore the mosaic in the public areas, and this work should be done this winter.”
Jennifer Mearns, Scotland Station Manager for Virgin Trains, said: “We were amazed when we first saw the mosaic design hidden under the concrete flooring.
“It’s been exciting to work with Network Rail and Rail Heritage Trust to provide a reception area for our customers and people worthy of the Victorian architects who first designed the room.”
Ann Glen, author of a history on Waverley Station, said that the design may have been made by Edinburgh-based Italians who specialised in mosaics. “According to a North British Railway Company ground floor plan, made at the time of the reconstruction of Waverley station in the latter 1890s, the premises were designed as a 'Dining Hall',” she said.
“The plan for the concourse 'offices' was devised by Blyth & Blyth, the consulting engineers responsible for the station project.There is no indication on the plan as to the class of passengers who would use the premises.”
Contact the Virgin Trains East Coast Press Office: 0116 366 3988 during office hours (09.00 - 17.30 Mon-Fri). Outside these times, and for urgent media enquiries only, please call 08700 005151 and ask for the duty Virgin Trains East Coast press officer to be paged.
Virgin Trains East Coast is the brand name of InterCity Railways Ltd (ICR), which is owned by Stagecoach Group (90%) and Virgin Group (10%). Virgin Trains East Coast began operating services on the East Coast Main Line on Sunday 1 March 2015, serving key UK cities including London, Peterborough, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness. In November 2014 the Department for Transport awarded ICR a new franchise until at least 31 March 2023.
Virgin Trains East Coast is committed to delivering a high speed, high quality service with new services, faster and more frequent journeys, more comfortable travel and excellent customer service. More than £140m is to be invested in delivering improved service and a more personalised travel experience for customers.
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• Stagecoach Group is a leading international public transport group, with extensive operations in the UK, mainland Europe, the United States and Canada. The Group employs around 38,000 people, and operates bus, coach, train, and tram services.
• Stagecoach is one of the UK’s biggest bus and coach operators with around 8,300 buses and coaches. Around 2.8 million passenger journeys are made on Stagecoach's buses every day on a network stretching from south-west England to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The Group’s business includes major city bus operations in London, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield and Cambridge. Low-cost coach service, megabus.com, operates a network of inter-city services across the UK and continental Europe.
• Stagecoach is a major UK rail operator, running the South West Trains, Island Line and East Midlands Trains networks. It is also the majority shareholder (90%) in the new Virgin Trains East Coast franchise and has a 49% shareholding in Virgin Rail Group, which operates the West Coast rail franchise.
• Stagecoach also operates the Supertram light rail network in Sheffield.
• In North America, Stagecoach operates around 2,400 buses and coaches in the United States and Canada. Megabus.com links around 130 key locations in North America. Stagecoach is also involved in operating commuter, transit, airport express services, contracted, charter and sightseeing services.