Network Rail bosses are facing a backlash for allocating millions to a new rail station at Ilkeston - when Langley Mill and Alfreton’s are lagging behind the times.
Amber Valley Tory MP Nigel Mills expressed his dismay this week that both stations still do not have adequate disabled access – when the rail authority can justify £4.5million for the llkeston site.
Neither has disabled toilets and unmanned Langley Mill only has a ramp up to the northbound platform.
Despite promises that Alfreton station would get a lift facility by Network Rail back in 2011 - so wheelchair users could access the southbound platform - the government told Alfreton Town Council at a public meeting that funding for the scheme has been ‘re-allocated’ and it is not set to review its itinerary of projects until September.
It means the improvements are unlikely to happen before 2014. Mayor of Alfreton, Coun John Walker, said: “I am saddened that the promises made to us over 18 months ago mean nothing. It is simply not acceptable.”
Currently disabled passengers travelling south to Alfreton are still being forced to undergo a 40-mile round trip to Nottingham first, then back to the town so they disembark on the northbound platform.
Coun Walker is proposing to send a letter to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin demanding that he urges the Government to issue funding for improvements there.
Mr Mills says he will ‘keep pushing’ for better facilities at both stations, but admits that the situation is more difficult at Langley Mill. Network Rail’s improvements funding is allocated to stations based on the amount of footfall they receive and as Langley Mill is less well used, it is low down on the authority’s list of priorities. However, the MP claims the funding formula is unfair.
“Where you have decent facilities people will use them,” he said. “Even people with prams struggle to get up to Langley Mill station, it’s not just a case of wheelchair access. Langley Mill was reopened to serve three towns, including Heanor and Eastwood. Who knows what the footfall would be like if we had better facilities.”
Chairman of Amber Valley Access Group Keith Boot, whose role sees him work for better disabled access around the borough, added his voice to the call for better facilities.
“It is definitely time something was done,” he said. “More so Alfreton than at Langley Mill as it is used more and it would be easier to put the facilities in at Alfreton. They have a building on site that can be converted into disabled toilets, but they would have to put in a new building at Langley Mill. Then there’s the issue of getting across the line.”
But Mr Boot added: “It’s a price worth paying definitely.”
A spokesman for Network Rail said, when quizzed as to the likelihood of either station seeing improvements for the disabled in the near future: “We are in the process of negotiating our funding for April 2014 onwards.
“The Office of Rail Regulation’s final determination is due at the end of this year, until then we cannot say for definite which schemes will happen.”