Dorset

Pokesdown station access for disabled delayed until 2020

Pokesdown station
Image caption Passengers have to negotiate 42 steep steps between the platforms and street level

Plans to make a rail station accessible for people unable to use stairs have been delayed for another year.

Lifts had been due to be reinstated at Pokesdown Station in Bournemouth by 31 December as part of South Western Railway's (SWR) franchise agreement.

But the company says it will miss the deadline, with work unlikely to be complete until at least September 2020.

SWR said "degradation" of the existing lift shafts had hampered progress. Critics called SWR a "disgrace".

News of the delay emerged during Monday's meeting of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council's overview and scrutiny board when the company was asked to provide a progress report.

SWR's head of station property, Alistair Wright, told councillors that engineers had been unable to properly assess the condition of the lift shafts because the steel had partially collapsed and it was unclear whether the lift gear at the top was in a stable condition.

He said: "The reality is those lifts are unlikely to be installed until towards the end of 2020. Our current programme, if everything goes according to plan, would indicate towards the end of September."

Boscombe East and Pokesdown councillor Andy Jones told the meeting he was "disgusted", and later tweeted that SWR "clearly don't give a monkeys about accessibility for all".

A SWR spokesman said safety was the "number one priority" when assessing the lift shafts.

He said: "This requires scaffolding to be erected so that we can carry out a detailed survey and plan.

"We are very sorry for the delay to this complex project."

The lifts at Pokesdown station have not worked for 35 years, meaning passengers must negotiate 42 steep steps or use Bournemouth station, two miles away.

The latest petition in a 12-year-long campaign for stair-free access has so far gathered about 1,800 signatures.

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