Rail bosses urged to act on upgrades

Market Harborough Train Station. NNL-150302-191722001
Market Harborough Train Station. NNL-150302-191722001

Calls to improve the railway station in Harborough do not go far enough, according to a disabled rights campaigner from the town who has been using the station’s ‘inadequate’ facilities for over 30 years.

District councillor Phil Knowles and Steve Jones, the chairman of the Harborough Rail Users’ group, stepped up the pressure on rail chiefs this week to publish timescales on planned improvements.

And they will be contacting the transport minister Patrick McLoughlin to seek answers.

But Market Harborough wheelchair-user Anne Pridmore, who took the Government to task at the High Court in 2013 and 2014 over disability issues, thinks the pleas need to be even more forceful.

She told the Mail: “This is the 21st century and wheelchair-users are still having to physically cross the tracks. The facilities are inadequate.

“Will it take somebody to get killed before they [Network Rail] take action?

“I’ve been a wheelchair-user crossing the line for over 30 years now and I think it should take priority over the other upgrades. It’s appalling.”

Cllr Knowles met with Mr Jones on Friday for talks about the station’s upgrade plans.

In June, Network Rail announced a ‘pause’ on the electrification of the Midland Mainline, which passes through Harborough.

But other upgrades have also been promised, including straightening the track.

Cllr Knowles said: “Indications I have received suggest the upgraded platform crossing facilities with lifts for the less able for improved access are significantly delayed, possibly until 2019.

“Whatever the delay, I think that we would all like to see signs that work is starting and indications of a timeline for completion.’’

Mr Jones added: “The decision to be made is between the full scheme to straighten the tracks and remove the bends through the station both to speed through non-stop trains and give us the full-height, full-length, fully accessible platforms we need, or a more modest scheme to extend the current southbound platform on the existing alignment.

“Though both options would include a footbridge with lifts to connect the platforms, the latter would offer limited opportunity to improve fully the accessibility of the station.”

Toby Higgins, a spokesman for Network Rail, said all the upgrades planned for Market Harborough, not just electrification, are now ‘paused’ and subject to a review being carried out by Network Rail’s new chairman Sir Peter Hendy, who was appointed in June.