On Monday 6th April we held a Skype Conference Call regarding step-free access at the station. Network Rail, Richard Fuller MP, and representatives from Central Beds Council, Biggleswade Town Council and GTR were on the call. This was the follow up to the meeting on 9th March, which was a bit of a car crash as I’ve set out previously. I’m pleased to say this meeting was far more productive.
Many of you will by now know the perils of video conferencing, but it was a constructive meeting and while not getting everything on our ‘shopping list’ there has been progress. A summary is set out below and I will be able to share draft plans with you by the end of this week:
- Three options (which included lifts off the current footbridge) were ruled out for a number of reasons – impracticable, not meeting minimum safety standards etc. I was in full agreement with the reasons given.
- The Bedfordshire Rail Access Network proposal, including an Eastern span to an additional bridge over the station, with a connection to the cycle path to the East of the station, was not regarded as feasible in the remit of funding from the Department for Transport.
- Any additional bridge as part of another option could be ‘future proofed’ to enable an Eastern span at a later date, or earlier if additional external funding could be found.
- The importance of retaining the current bridge, both in terms of a ‘right of way’ and as an access point to the platforms was set out clearly.
- Two options remain at this time – both include ramped access from near the current station buildings to a new bridge across all 4 platforms, a little to the South of the current buildings on the S/B platform, with lifts and steps down to each platform. I’ll send out the plans asap.
- Of the two options, the ramp with the shallower gradient 1 in 20 as opposed to 1 in 16.5 is favoured at this time.
- I reiterated that people with disabilities must be consulted before any plans are finalised.
- I raised a concern about the proposed bus interchange (just to the South of the small car park next to the old mini-cab office) in terms of gradients from the interchange to the train station. Network Rail have not received detailed plans from Central Bedfordshire Council re the bus station, but said they would look into this and report back as soon as possible.
- I discussed the importance of being open and transparent about the scheme, which is such an important one for the town. I asked if I can share the plans, which I should be able to do by the end of this week, on the understanding that it’s made clear they are not set in stone.
- Network Rail, GTR, Central Beds and the town council must work together to ensure that any issues are speedily resolved. I was pleased to see progress in this area.
While the next full meeting is planned in around three months time, I will be in touch with all parties before then to discuss the issue in further detail. On this issue Richard Fuller and I are on the same wavelength. I’m sure that a number of challenges will arise, as in any project of this nature, but I’ll be doing all I can to keep the pressure on until we finally have step-free access at the station. Do follow me on social media for further updates or email us at: email@example.com