A view of Athlone Railway Station which dates back to 1858.Photo: National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

'Changing places' facility planned for Athlone Railway Station

Athlone Railway Station could have a 'changing places' accessible public toilet in the near future, which would have more space and a specialised design for people with additional needs or disabilities, according to new plans.

The State transport company has revealed a proposal to make a number improvements at their base on the Southern Station Road, including enhanced staff welfare facilities, improved public toilets with a new 'changing places' facility, and additional fire safety measures.

The plans, lodged with Westmeath County Council on September 20 last, would cover internal and external alterations and a single-storey extension within a closed yard to provide a new staff locker room, shower rooms, an enlarged staff canteen, reconfigured toilets and a 'changing places' facility in the extension dating from 1985 at the railway station.

Explaining the background to the project, the planning documents pointed out that the proposed works are prompted by the government objective to provide a ‘changing places toilet’ in all large public buildings over time, and Iarnród Eireann/Irish Rail has already commenced the roll-out the facilities at its properties. 'Changing places' toilets are now operational at Connolly and Heuston Stations in Dublin.

“The initiative is coordinated by the National Transport Authority (NTA) and by mobile app, users and carers can locate the closest facility anywhere in Ireland,” the architectural heritage impact assessment lodged in support of the project stated.

“In Athlone, the scope of works has been broadened to also upgrade the staff welfare facilities and to improve fire safety and the means of escape from the building,” on the upper level, it added.

A protected structure, Athlone Railway Station dates back to 1858 when it was built to the design of George Wilkinson and operated until 1927 as the Great Southern & Western Railway Station.

From 1927, Athlone was served by the former Midland & Great Western Railway Station on the west side of the River Shannon but the roles were reversed in 1985, when Wilkinson’s building was extended with a large new concourse on the platform side and reopened to serve the town.

The design would have “regard to the character of the protected structure and the proposed works will not impact on any historical features of interest,” the architectural heritage impact assessment underlined.

Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail DAC, in whose name the application is lodged, also vowed that any alterations will be undertaken with care, and a conservation architect would be engaged throughout the construction stage.

A decision on the planned works is expected from Westmeath County Council by November 14 next.

Another 'changing places' toilet is planned for Athlone Civic Centre, with tenders for a contractor for that project advertised during the summer.