Iconic bus station revamp is heading in the right direction

A Preston-based company is hard at work making and delivering 1,500 signs for the £23.3 million refurbishment and redevelopment of the city’s iconic bus station.

Signs Express (Central Lancashire) has been appointed by main contractor Conlon Construction to deliver all the signage for the refurbished Grade II-listed building.

And that includes going back to the future. The work includes re-creating the original sign designs, by the architects and engineers at Building Design Partnership and Ove Arup & Partners, which were installed when the bus station was first opened in the late 1960s

The first-stage of the contract to improve the bus station concourse has already been completed and handed over to Lancashire County Council by Preston-based Conlon as part of the wider development project.

Delivering all 1,500 signs will take the design and manufacturing teams at Signs Express, which operates from its Rough Hey headquarters on the outskirts of the city, 12 months to deliver.

The bus station work is just one of a number of projects Signs Express is delivering for large-scale construction and regeneration projects across the North West being carried out by big-name regional builders including Conlon, Warden Construction and Eric Wright.

Signs Express’ clients also include hospital trusts, schools and colleges across Lancashire, local authorities, universities and manufacturers.

Ben Hall, director at Signs Express, said: “As a Preston company we are very proud to have been appointed to this important regeneration project for the city.

“The work we have been carrying out has also been fascinating as the regeneration project includes restoring a lot of the bus station to its original 1960s look, including the signs and the distinctive numbers on each original bus bay.

“We’re spending a lot of time getting that look right. The bus station is a very special and distinctive building and requires this special approach. The result will be fantastic.”

The bus station revamp is part of a wider regeneration of the area and includes the creation of a public square and a youth zone. The building is hailed as an iconic example of Brutalist architecture.

Peter Carroll, project manager for Conlon, said: “The team at Signs Express have been proactive in finding solutions to match the existing signage as the building is listed and has English Heritage status.

“They have worked well with ourselves and our client Lancashire County Council providing detailed signage information and samples when required.”

Quirks of the job abound as the listed status of the bus station means certain original signs must be restored or replaced.

Ben Hall says: “On the eastern apron, where the new bus terminals are being located, the original signs number 1 to 40 inside the concourse and will be retained and restored.

“But, there are going to be fewer bays for buses so externally every sixth or seventh number is missing. There will be no numbers 18, 26 or 33 for example.

“This won’t affect passengers, as these numbers are only used by drivers arriving at the bus station.”

Signs Express and its 15-strong workforce designs, produces and installs a full range of signage for its growing client base and is owned and run by father and son team Stephen and Ben Hall.

As well as external and internal signs, the company also creates vehicle and window graphics and has seen a growing demand for its bespoke digital wallpaper. All its work, from design to manufacture, is carried out ‘in house’.

Stephen, 62, is the former managing director of Coupe Foundry in Higher Walton. After a management buy-out in the 1990s he doubled its turnover to more than £7 million in his 10 years in charge, before selling the business to venture capital investors.

Signs Express’ growing client list has seen annual turnover grow above £800,000. Ben said: “Our design department is using the latest software to create powerful messages. We pride ourselves that we are more than just a sign company.

“We’ve got graphics and fabrication workshops that are also equipped with the latest technology. It means we can produce all aspects of sign work, including illuminated, tactile and braille signs.

“It’s a very competitive market out there, but the advantage we have is being able to take on work of all sizes and to successfully project manage them.”

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