A REFRESHMENTS stall in a Northumberland train station will re-open to provide training for students with learning disabilities.
The run-down kiosk on Platform 2 at Hexham Station has been renovated and will open next Monday serving drinks and locally made sandwiches.
Staff from Dilston College of Further Education for young people with learning disabilities will run the kiosk and provide scones and other tempting snacks made by students.
The last time Hexham Station had a coffee shop was more than 15 years ago. Then it was situated in another part of the station. At the time the kiosk used to sell newspapers until it also closed.
Now Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership – which is made up of local councillors, individuals and Northern Rail – has raised £15,000 to revamp the kiosk, putting in insulation, re-plastering the walls, fitting the electrics and installing a new counter.
Partnership officer John Gillott said: “We decided that Hexham passengers should have something like a coffee shop and we contacted two charities who at first said they could help.
“One pulled out quite early on and the other told us at the very last minute they could not help. I think it was realised they just did not have the resources.
“However we are absolutely delighted that this is going ahead and it will be an asset to passengers on the Tyne Valley line.”
Older students from the college will have to chance to gain work experience with the help of a support worker.
They will be taught to operate the coffee machines, dealing with money and communicating with the public.
Jimmy Proudlock, transition coordinator at Dilston College said: “We have found that putting people in work situations such as cafes increases their self esteem and confidence and after a few weeks they are relating to the public
“It can be difficult for young people with learning difficulties to get work by the normal process but this kind of experience helps.”
It is hoped that the kiosk will be open every day expect Sunday from early in the morning to lunchtime.
The cafe will catch early morning commuters as well as shoppers going to the Metrocentre or Newcastle.
The money for the project came from the Big Lottery, the Community Partnership and the Railway Heritage Trust, which is funded by Network Rail and provided £5,000 for the project.
Andy Savage, executive director of the Railway Heritage Trust, said: “There is certainly a demand for redundant buildings at stations which are no longer needed by the railways.
“We think it is important to preserve these buildings and Hexham Station is special.”