A POPULAR cafe at a railway station is set to close after it lost out on a new contract to a higher bidder.

Independent cafe Milk and Sugar, based at Southend Victoria Station, had to put in for the new tender in order to keep serving customers.

The cafe has been allowed to trade rent free for the time being, but its customers, many of them on first-name terms with devastated owner Fergal Grant, are angry it is having to close.

Theresa Whybrow, 48, of Stadium Road, Southend, who uses the cafe most days on her way to work at the council offices at the Civic Centre, said: “I don’t want to see it closed.

This is a community based cafe.

“Fergal knows everyone by their first names and talks to everyone. He knows all about people who go there and looks out for the vulnerable who go their regularly for a chat.

“If I have to start a petition, I will and there will be many who will sign and support it. It’s a great cafe with a TV and books and art. It’s just a lovely little place.”

Harry Edgington, from Southend, who is also a regular at the cafe, said: “Southend Victoria Station is about to lose one of its most valuable assets.

“Greater Anglia has managed to repeatedly upset its own staff, and travellers and this is clearly another triumph for them.”

Mr Grant said: “I am still waiting any formal outcome from Greater Anglia, but I will be sorry to go. I will be sorry to leave my loyal customers and the business I have built over the past five years.”

It is thought other businesses at the station could also leave.

John Lamb, Southend Council’s deputy leader and councillor responsible for regeneration, said: “I feel very sad about this. I hope the other little local businesses stay there. We need these kind of businesses.

They are a great help locally.”

A spokesman for Abellio Greater Anglia said: “Where commercial tenancies at stations are due for review, we will always ensure the proper processes to re-let station premises are followed.

“In this instance, the existing tenant has been unsuccessful in re-bidding, but in the meantime before the new tenancy commences, we are making provision for them to continue to trade rent free. Other tenancy agreements at the station are also undergoing review as part of the normal re-letting cycle for commercial partners operating tenancies at our stations.”

Uncertainty for other businesses

MORE businesses are facing uncertainty over whether they will be able to carry on trading at Victoria Station.

The Echo understands both the Londis and Rossco’s Barbershop units have been put up for tender in the station’s shopping area.

A worker at Londis, who did not want to be named, said the store had heard nothing, but silence from Greater Anglia, creating anxiety both for staff and the leaseholder.

He said: “They don’t tell us anything. The lease runs out at the end of the month, but we don’t know whether we’re coming or going.

“For all we know, they could ask us to clear out in a week, but there’s no way we can clear out in the space of a week. I left a job I’d been doing for 17 years in Shoebury to work here five months ago and I don’t even know if I’m going to have a job at the end of the month.

“I’m going to be out looking for work, but there’s not exactly a lot of that around at the