THREE new passenger lifts at Goring station have been officially opened.
The £1.2 million scheme was completed by Network Rail earlier this year as part of the ongoing electrification of the Great Western main line from London to Oxford.
A new passenger footbridge was required because the old one was in poor condition and was too low to accommodate overhead power cables.
Network Rail initially said it couldn't afford to include lifts but the village's mobility issues group organised a petition which attracted more than 1,000 signatures.
Henley MP John Howell took this to Parliament and in 2015 the company backed down and agreed to fund the work after discussions with the Department for Transport.
At Monday’s opening ceremony Mr Howell cut the ribbon before a group of elderly and disabled villagers rode the lifts for the first time.
Among the guests was Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, who gave a short speech.
Also present were members of Goring Parish Council, South Oxfordshire District Council leader John Cotton, Oxfordshire Country Council leader Ian Hudspeth.
Sir Peter said: "Adapting a 200-year-old railway network to the needs of the 21st century is complex, difficult and expensive so we welcome the Government's support.
"I used to run Transport for London so I understand the need for accessibility. It's important for everyone to be able to go about their daily lives as easily as possible.
"It is a great pleasure to be doing this and I hope we can do more, although it is dependent on public funding. When you see the difference that schemes like this make to people’s lives, you realise it’s very much worth it.”
Matthew Golton, commercial development director for train operator Great Western Railway, said: "I'd like to pay a personal tribute to the work of the mobility issues group, in particular the dogged determination of its chairman John Boler.
"There's no doubt that without Network Rail's community-minded support, coupled with John pressing the case, this wouldn't be here. Thank you to all concerned for making a real difference to this station."
Mr Howell said: “It’s brilliant news that we finally have these lifts. It’s particularly important for Goring because it has the most elderly population in South Oxfordshire.
“It shows the benefit of persistence – if you ask a question and let yourself be knocked back by an initial refusal, you get nothing. However, if you keep fighting for what you believe is crucial for a village like this, you can get results.”
Kevin Bulmer, chairman of Goring Parish Council, said: “This will make it much easier for people of a certain age to get to Reading, Oxford or London much more easily, especially with the imminent arrival of Crossrail.
“This is a great example of how people in the village are willing to get out there and campaign for what they want.”
As part of the electrification work, the station platforms have been raised to make them level with the new electric trains that will soon be deployed.
Great Western Railway has also installed a disabled toilet and wheelchair-friendly ticket counter.
The mobility issues group now wants the pavement leading up to the station to be widened as it is less than a metre across in places. It has secured at least £17,000 in grants and pledges for the work.
Mr Boler said: “I would like to thank Network Rail, Great Western Railway and their contractors for delivering this bridge and lifts. They will make a real difference to the many who already use the station as well as attracting new customers to the railway.”