Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Concerns whether project to provide lifts at Theale Station will go ahead

The latest news from First Great Western Trains on the improvements to Theale station is as follows:

- Work to create a new ticket office and retail unit will begin in January and this should be complete by end of March 2014.  This was originally planned for the autumn, but has been delayed while FGW have been trying to finalise the detailed design and contracts.

- The plans to enable provision of the lift and bridge, originally due at the same time, are ongoing while FGW make sure the design delivers value for money.

The first piece of news is welcome of course. However the second is very worrying. Apparently, the tenders came in much higher than expected and exceeded the budget for this part of the project. FGW have had to go back to the Department for Transport to get permission to spend more and to approve the delay in the project. There is therefore a real prospect that the new footbridge and lifts will not get built. This would be a disaster!

I therefore wrote the following email to Baroness Kramer, who id the transport minister responsible for stations:

Dear Lady Kramer,
I am writing to you as Lib-Dem Councillor for Theale regarding problems with the Access for All project at our station.
Theale is a very busy station and is used by well over 400,000 passengers per year. Access from the booking office and car park to either platform is by two set of stairs - please see photo below. Passengers have to negotiate almost 50 steps in total, and this will increase when the bridge is increased in height for the electrification project.
The station facilities are also very poor – the “booking office” is basically a site caravan that has been embellished over the year with a veranda and disabled access ramps (please see photo below).
There is a project to build a new footbridge with lifts and to provide new passenger facilities, including a new booking office. For space reasons, these will be at the other end of the station and car park from the existing footbridge and booking office. The new footbridge and lifts are to be funded from the DFT’s Access for All programme.
After several delays to the project, we have now been informed that the tender costs for the lifts and bridge have come in considerably over budget and that the project cannot now be completed before March. This means that the DFT will need to approve the delay and give approval for the required increase in funding.
FGW are going ahead with the new passenger facilities. However, if the new lifts and bridge are not provided the new facilities will be at the opposite end of the station car park to the existing footbridge. Passengers would then be faced with a long detour to buy their tickets and access the platforms.
I would be grateful if you could help get the required approvals for the delay and increase in funding for this much needed project.
Kind Regards,
Alan Macro
Councillor for Theale
West Berkshire Council

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