Campaigners hopeful Chinley Station's step-free access will be addressed with new funding grants
Campaigners fighting to make Chinley Station accessible to all are hoping to secure money from the government’s new Levelling Up fund.
Both platforms at Chinley, a busy station linking Manchester Piccadilly and Stockport with Sheffield, are only accessible by steps, with a fight for step free access ongoing since 2010.
Paul Tattam, a member of the Chinley and Buxworth Transport Group, said: “Not having step free access is turning people away from the railway and something needs to be done once and for all to address this huge oversight.”
Chinley station has no level access to any part of the station. The single island platform can only be accessed via steep steps over a footbridge which Paul says is treacherous in poor weather, and has been the cause of a number of accidents.
There is a need for the improved access as Chinley station is being used by more people than ever, the Office of Rail and Road statistics (ORR) say.
Since the beginning of the ORR data collection period in 1997, Chinley station has recorded one of the most significant rises in passenger footfall on the Manchester –Sheffield mainline.
In 1997/98 there were 44,466 annual passengers but with Chinley becoming a popular commuter town and the new houses at the Forge Manor development, the figures from 2016/17 showed there were 120,132 annual passengers – an increase of 170 per cent.
Double above-the-knee amputee Victoria Abbott-Fleming is wheelchair bound and also suffers with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). She says step free access at the station would give her more freedom.
The 42-year-old who runs a charity for CRPS sufferers said: “I just don’t get the train from Chinley anymore.
“A lot of our support sessions for the charity are in Manchester but even though I live in Chinley I have to either get a taxi or drive to Buxton and go from there – it’s bonkers.
"In Chinley we also have the Additional Needs School with many disabled students and a demographic of both older people with mobility issues and younger families with buggies, who all cannot use the station at all or who have extreme difficulties in accessing it.
“Chinley Station is sufficiently large enough to make these adaptions.”
A spokesperson for the Access for All charity looked at the work which needed to be done at Chinley Station and said: “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.”
Over the years various reports have been made and grants applied for however none have been successful.
However, section 106 money – contributions which are sought from developers towards the costs of providing community and social infrastructure – from the Forge Manor development has paid for a new feasibility study on the need for step free access.
Paul said: “We missed out on funding two years ago but we haven’t stopped campaigning, we have just been working hard behind the scenes.
"This new report is industry standard so while we haven’t got any funding yet if we were successful to secure a grant from the government’s Levelling Up fund we would be ready to go rather than wait to have the report done.”
The Levelling Up Fund was announced in March 2021 and brings together the Department for Transport, the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government and the Treasury to invest £4.8 billion in highvalue local infrastructure.
A statement from Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak further explained the new funding bids and said: “Infrastructure improves everyday life.
"A new bridge or a bus lane makes the journeys of local people easier; town centre improvements help local businesses and cement pride in a place; and upgrades in local heritage sites strengthen the local economy and build civic identity.
"These are things that people rely on every day in communities up and down the country – the infrastructure of everyday life.”
Derbyshire County Council and High Peak Borough Council will both be able to submit one application to try and win some of the money.
Improving access at Chinley station is an issue which unites the community, and which for many years has attracted cross-party support from elected representatives
at parish council, borough council, county council and Parliamentary level.
High Peak MP Robert Largan is working with High Peak Borough Council to submit an application and he says since he won his seat in 2019 he has taken over the fight for step free access at Chinley station.
Mr Largan who is also a member of the Transport Select Committee said: “I desperately want to address the problem of step free access in Chinley.
"I have raised the issue in Parliament, created a petition and supported the residents of Chinley with this much needed campaign.
"It’s 2021 and yet there are places like Chinley Station where people in wheelchairs, those with pushchairs or mobility issues are not able to use the railway service.
"There are lots of different things the Levelling Up funds could be spent on if an application was successful – there is a desperate need to invest in the High Peak – but the decision will lie with High Peak Borough Council when they apply.
"However, I will be working with the council so we can be in the strongest position for the bid going forward.”
High Peak Borough Council Leader, Councillor Anthony Mckeown, said: “The council are actively looking at putting together a comprehensive bid to the Levelling Up fund. At this stage, we are looking at a long list of opportunities across the High Peak, of which the improvements to Chinley Station are one.
“Whilst the opportunity of getting extra funding for the High Peak is welcome, there are several requirements and restrictions to bidding for this funding."