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Station lifts grounded

Posted on October 31 2017 at 1:17:50

The long-promised installation of lifts at Barnt Green railway station is now unlikely to go ahead as planned.

The bad news was delivered to parish councillors by Richard Dugdale, senior sponsor for Network Rail’s electrification project.

He told the council meeting that although the lifts for the passenger footbridge were authorised last year, it had since become clear that the cost and timescale of their construction was prohibitive.

The footbridge, completed in summer 2015, was originally designed without any lifts for disabled access – but Network Rail had said they were committed to installing them by December this year and had secured the necessary funding.

Mr Dugdale told councillors: “Unfortunately, installing the lifts would trigger a series of further construction challenges, which would take the cost from £900,000 to £3 million or more.

“It would also take a long time to do the work, which in fact would mean extending the timescale of the entire electrification project.

“At a time when other electrification projects around the UK are being canned completely, we are hanging on to the Bromsgrove one – so we really can’t install the lifts at this stage, and possibly not in the next five years.”

County and district councillor Peter McDonald led the outcry, claiming that Network Rail had “misinformed us from day one.

“It’s scandalous – you must have known the costs in advance. We have emails telling us it was definitely happening; now Network Rail has reneged on its promise.”

Parish chairman Robert Cholmondeley added: “The job was not done properly in the first place. We asked about lifts before the new bridge was built, but we have been hoodwinked and now you’re using the economic argument to wriggle out of it.”

Mr Dugdale insisted that Network Rail had not known the full cost or implications, and that there was “no intention to mislead”.

Councillors also raised disability legislation, which they had been told made the lifts a legal requirement, but Mr Dugdale said that the Equalities Act only required the provision of non-discriminatory access “within financial limits”.

Coun Cholmondely said: “For disabled people, it’s terrible – it’s OK if you want to go to Birmingham, but to get to Redditch, you either have to go all the way round to the other side of the station via the road, or get a train to Longbridge and then come back.

“We have been led down the garden path for past three years, and it also puts the council in a bad position because we have passed on Network Rail’s promises to our residents.”

Councillors were also told that the new £1 million bridge to replace the footpath rail crossing at Cofton – due before the end of the year – was now more likely to be installed next summer.

Mr Dugdale said Network Rail had encountered complications over land access, explaining: “Although it would be simpler to swing the structure in from the north and build a temporary access road, we now have to go in from the south side, which is more costly and has to go through planning.“

Coun Cholmondeley said: “I will believe in this bridge when I see it.”

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