Fighting to get improved access at Chinley station

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Campaigners have taken the concerns of residents to Parliament and the National Infrastructure Commission in a bid to make a busy trian station accessible for everyone.

Chinley is a busy station linking Manchester Piccadilly and Stockport with Sheffield, but both platforms are only accessible by steps.

Last month the Chinley and Buxworth Transport Group submitted a ten-page evidence document to the National Infrastructure Commission which is asking for information on connecting towns for the Northern Powerhouse.

Campaigner Paul Tattam moved to Chinley from South Devon last year. The 61-year-old said: “It is astonishing that in this day and age there is no way for mums with pushchairs or those in wheelchairs to use the platforms safely and effectively.

“So much money is being spent on HS2, but the smaller stations are being forgotten and poor infrastructure inhibits growth of the area and that is what is happening here.”

It is almost ten years since the Government’s Access for All funding programme was launched to start a process of providing step-free access to stations.

Initially, the fund was used to provide an accessible route to around 150 of the busiest stations on Network Rail; by the end of 2019, the Department for Transport estimates that more than £520 million will have been invested in, providing level access to some 215 stations across the country.

Andrew Bingham, the High Peak’s MP, said: “I am disappointed to note that Chinley station was not nominated by Northern Rail for the last tranche of Access for All funding and that the available funding has now been allocated. I am totally supportive of the group’s efforts to improve access and am happy to do all I can to assist.”

In the last round of Access for All funding, 278 stations were put forward but only 68 of these could be added to the programme. New applications will be taken after 2019.

Claire Perry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, said: “We are committed to improving the accessibility of stations on our rail network. Unfortunately, many of our stations, including Chinley, date from the Victorian period when the needs of disabled customers were simply not considered.”

She advises that for Chinley to be considered for the next round of funding it would need the strong support from the operator and a proportion of third party funding would help to weight the business case.

Carol Evans, chairman of the Chinley and Buxworth Transport Group, said: “Chinley is a growing village, and station usage has gone up 26 per cent in the last six years.

“New housing is being built in the area, there are specialist education and training centres at the Peak School and Alderbrook. The lack of step-free access at Chinley is becoming intolerable - the railway is supposed to serve the community, not limit its functioning.”

Speaking last year in the foreword to ‘Transforming the North’s Railways’, the Secretary of State for Transport and MP for Derbyshire Dales, Patrick McLoughlin MP, wrote: “This government has huge ambitions for the North of England and the railway is key to those plans.”

An audit was completed by High Peak Access Group in December 2015.

It was noted that: “Access to the platform should be improved to make it possible for wheelchair users and others who cannot easily cope with stairs, to reach the platform.

“Alternative accessible provision would normally be made through the use of a series of ramps, or passenger lifts.

“There would appear to be room to incorporate two lifts, integrated into the existing footbridge layout.”

New mum Helen Grainger, who lives in Chinley, said she feels the station desperately needs improving.

She said: “I can’t use Chinley Station to travel by rail by myself, as I cannot get the pushchair up and down the steep footbridge steps safely with my baby boy still in it - let alone take any bags with me, or bring anything back from any shops.”

Her sentiments are echoed by other residents, including Carolyn Francis, who said: “I am really quite shocked by the poor access at Chinley Station.

“We have just moved to this area and we chose Chinley because of its direct rail links to Manchester and Sheffield.

“We struggle over the footbridge when we have luggage – heaven knows how we would get to the platforms if we had mobility problems.”

For the group, the time has come to raise awareness about Chinley station.

Paul added: “We need people to see how much of a problem this is and how many people are affected by the inappropriate access before we miss out on the next lot of funding.”