St Neots railway station bridge work to start next year

WORK to provide disabled access at St Neots railway station will begin next summer and take about a year to complete.

But angry passengers are adamant that it should have been completed BEFORE new lifts were installed at Huntingdon station.

The Hunts Post reported last week that the two new lifts were officially opened by Network Rail last Monday (July 16), giving wheelchair users, parents with prams and people with heavy luggage, easy access to the footbridge and opposite platforms.

But St Neots station, which has no wheelchair access, is still waiting for its new facilities ... about a decade after the lifts project was first thought to be getting off the ground.

It leaves disabled passengers from St Neots and surrounding villages having to travel to Huntingdon to access any trains.

“I don’t know what’s stopping them from doing it,” Ross Hovey, 33, of Hail Weston, told The Hunts Post. “Huntingdon station was 90 per cent wheelchair accessible before the lifts were installed whereas St Neots is zero accessible.”

Mr Hovey, himself a wheelchair-user, is one of the people who has a 24-mile round trip to Huntingdon station and back – a journey that costs him both time and money.

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The St Neots project was also to give the people of Love’s Farm station access from their side of the tracks.

St Neots East town councillor Carl Jones said: “The first wave of people moved to Love’s Farm in 2008 and we’ve been promised a bridge ‘very soon’ ever since then. It’s very frustrating for commuters who bought here thinking it was a short walk to the station.

“But clearly St Neots has not been a priority. Huntingdon has always been a far higher priority to have lift access so it got done first.”

A spokesman for train operator First Capital Connect (FCC) told The Hunts Post that it had “not been a case of one [station] being done at the expense of the other”.

“Huntingdon was identified for improvements under the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Access for All scheme,” he said. “St Neots was a slightly different case as the bridge there was being provided by a local developer as part of the conditions for the new property development.”

But passengers told The Hunts Post they wanted action, not excuses.

Louise Douglas, 37, a mother-of-one who moved to Love’s Farm from Eaton Ford last year, said: “I have family in Norwich but since my daughter was born three years ago I haven’t been able to go because I just can’t manage the steps.”

And Iris Parr, 65, of East Street, said that following her recent hip operation it was impossible for her to manage to station steps.

“It’s times like that you really do struggle,” she said. “I often see people carrying other people’s prams up the steps. We definitely need ramps in St Neots.”

FCC said it does have an outline design for improving St Neots station, The �4.5 million project would provide an east-west footbridge built just north of the station buildings and connect Love’s Farm with the town centre via ramps and stairs. Stairs and lifts would also connect the footbridge with the platforms below and the old footbridge would be removed.

Huntingdon MP, Jonathan Djanogly, told The Hunts Post: “The Department for Transport has pledged a further �1m funding, on top of the �3.5m of section 106 funding already secured from the Love’s Farm development, to replace the footbridge at St Neots train station.

“This new footbridge will connect Love’s Farm directly to the station, which will be a significant improvement for the new home owners as they will no longer have to commute via the station entrance on the other side of the tracks.

“We have all shared a sense of frustration in waiting for this essential upgrade and I have been lobbying Network Rail and working with other partners on this issue for some time.

“I am therefore greatly relieved that this scheme will now become a reality by spring 2014 and benefit the residents of St Neots.”