Wednesday, 23 June 2021

MP welcomes campaign for station lifts

JOHN HOWELL is backing a campaign for passenger lifts at Goring station.

JOHN HOWELL is backing a campaign for passenger lifts at Goring station.

The Henley MP has written to transport minister Norman Baker urging him to fund the £1.2 million scheme put forward by the Mobility Issues Group for Goring and Streatley.

The group says the station footbridge is difficult for elderly and disabled travellers to use and wants it replaced by three lifts, linked by a sheltered walkway.

Next year, Network Rail is to spend £2 million replacing the footbridge with a taller one to make way for overhead cables as part of its electrification programme but the company says it cannot afford the extra cost of the lifts.

Train operator First Great Western and the Department for Transport have also refused to offer funding.

Mr Howell met members of the group at the station and urged them to launch a petition that he can present to Parliament.

They agreed and have started collecting signatures from commuters, high street shoppers and people visiting social clubs at the village hall.

So far, more than 100 people have signed the petition but the group is confident of gathering 500 names.

Chairman John Boler said: “We don’t need a massive number but it must be enough to demonstrate that there is strong support for the idea among villagers.

“Mr Howell may be supporting us but we’re not idly waiting to see what happens next. We’re actively pursuing every opportunity to draw ourselves to people’s attention and keep ourselves at the front of their minds.

“Frailty comes to us all and many people in this area depend on mobility aids such as walking frames or mobility scooters.” Mr Howell has asked Network Rail and First Great Western to put pressure on the Government to fund the lifts.

Most money for accessibility improvements comes from the DfT’s Access For All programme, which has allocated £100 million to refurbish stations over the next six years.

Mr Howell said: “When I met with the mobility group, we decided we would turn up the temperature on this issue.

“My involvement in this is no reflection on the hard work that they’ve already done but it illustrates the need to increase the pressure and try to secure some Access For All funding. I’ve imposed on First Great Western and Network Rail the need to work together on this and submit an application, so we shall have to see how that turns out.

“It’s essential to get disabled access at Goring otherwise people have to go all the way to Reading or Didcot and come back by taxi, which is expensive.

“At the very least, we would like them to leave space for lifts to be installed at a later date when the bridge is rebuilt. At the moment, Network Rail is under instruction to replace it on a like-for-like basis and that is unacceptable.”

Mr Baker said: “We are in dialogue with Network Rail to explore whether opportunities to install lifts at the station may exist as part of the electrification programme.

“Following that, we will consider the case for including Goring and Streatley in the next tranche of Access For All main schemes.”

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