Father and son fight to save their Woking railway station business

A WOKING business owner has launched a petition to stop his train station landlord turfing him out on his birthday.

Tom Eker, 23, who lives in Prospect Place in Old Woking, started up the popular Eccher’s coffee kiosk on platform one of Woking railway station with his dad Bob in December 2011.

CUSTOMER ANNOUNCEMENT - Bob's message to patrons

CUSTOMER ANNOUNCEMENT – Bob’s message to patrons

But after two-and-a-half years of early rises and stirling service it looks as if it could be the end of the line for the self-made pair – unless their petition can gather enough steam.

So far, more than 200 people have penned their signature to help save the kiosk, meaning the situation will be automatically referred to the council executive.

South West Trains have decided to terminate the kiosk’s lease in order to make way for a new staircase on the station. Mirroring recent work on other platforms, station management say the new walkway will help ease congestion.

And Tom, who turns 24 on October 23, has been told to clear-out his cappuccino maker no later than October 25.

“We don’t want to leave Woking and we’d like to be involved, or at least to see, the plans for the redevelopment,” said Tom, who says he is still shocked at the three months’ notice he was delivered by Travel Point Trading, who manage South West Trains’ assets, in July.

“We have both put so much into the business and if we are made to move now we will leave worse-off than when we came in,” explained Tom.

“I was stunned really, we came in on the understanding that the station wanted us to be there long-term, and now that seems to have changed.

“We’re still in talks and hoping that something will come off, but until then we are pressing forward with the petition.”

Planning permission for the new staircase has already been approved and Tom and Bob have been in constant communication with TPT officials since discovering their fate.

The pair have pushed for relocation further along the station, and have even offered to downsize the kiosk at great personal expense to preserve their livelihood which featured in the News & Mail last summer as a beneficiary of the increased number of people using the train to get to London for the 2012 Olympic Games.

But as their frustrations grew, Bob posted a message to loyal customers (above right) on the kiosk to help highlight their battle.

It reads: “We have exhausted all avenues of enquiry to have the kiosk relocated and feel little help or consideration has been offered by either our landlord or their agent during this process. ‘Regulation this’ or ‘financial that’ or plain indifference seem to make a common-sense move impossible.

“Just another example of good old British ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ being stifled by bureaucracy and hogwash red tape.”

A response from the man handling the situation, TPT’s Ian Chalmers, said: “I am sorry to read that you consider you have had little help or consideration from the landlord or TPT regarding the relocation. I am sorry that you consider that the safety concerns over the new location are bureaucracy and red tape.

“I am, however, able to confirm that every effort has been made to downsize the kiosk and to relocate, however, the narrowness of the platform and the subsequent impact on queuing of customers and passenger flows was deemed unsafe.

“The proposed staircase is a required improvement for the passengers utilising the station and it is regrettable that the installation impacts on the location of the kiosk.”

TPT have asked the sign to be removed. With support of customers an online petition has also been started and Tom has encouraged loyal patrons to make their voice heard.

“We’ve recently created a Twitter account and Facebook page and the support we’ve received has been great,” he said.

“We’ll keep going until the last minute and are only after what we, and more than 200 others, deem to be a fair deal.”

For further information on the e-petition, follow @Eccher1864Ltd on Twitter.

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