[R]ory Stewart MP has officially unveiled a £3.5m government investment into new facilities means that Penrith station is now accessible to all. The momentous occasion was the culmination of a years-long campaign, driven by Rory and the community, to upgrade the outdated and dangerous crossing facilities at the station, enabling access for the disabled, the elderly and the infirm, and for those with cumbersome baggage.
As part of the campaign, Rory twice brought the Secretary of State for Transport to Penrith station, and followed and pushed the project through a complex government bidding process. The lift – along with the dualling of the A66 finally confirmed in the latest autumn statement – were two of his manifesto commitments in the last General Election.
Network Rail, in partnership with the Department for Transport (DfT) has installed a new lift and footbridge enabling all passengers to use the station safely and easily.
Rory said: “The campaign to improve disabled access at Penrith station has been a long community effort, but ultimately successful; and I am absolutely thrilled that residents and travellers to and from Penrith now have the availability of new lifts and a footbridge, meaning that disabled and wheelchair users; the elderly; families with prams and pushchairs; and the many others who find it difficult to access the northbound platform, will have a much safer and easier time now.
“I would like to thank in particular local campaigners like Eden District Councillor John Thompson and County Councillor Helen Fearon, and all the constituents who wrote to me to support the campaign. Heartfelt thanks are also, of course, due to Network Rail’s ‘Access for All’ team and the Department for Transport for the commitment they have shown from the very beginning, and for completing on time and on budget. Thank you.”
The enhancement at the station forms part of the ‘Access for All scheme’, a programme managed by Network Rail and funded by the DfT, with the aim of improving accessibility at train stations. This includes installing lifts and ramps to make stations step-free and accessible to all passengers including those with reduced mobility, children, heavy luggage or shopping.
The work started in March 2016 and was completed on time and on budget, meaning passengers are now are able to use the footbridge over the West Coast main line and new lifts on platforms 1 and 2.
Judith Holmshaw, local rail user said: “Penrith train station staff provide excellent friendly and outstanding customer service helping me in my wheelchair to cross the barrier crossing every day after work. The new lift will mean I will have greater independence at the station and not have to rely on the staff helping me cross the barrier crossing to access the alternative platform. It will save time both for myself and the station staff, but will make access for wheelchair users, parents with pushchairs, people with mobility problems and with luggage to have a much easier option and improved access at Penrith station.
“I would like to thank Penrith train station staff for all their help over the years in all kinds of weather enabling me to travel to and from work every day, and thank Rory for helping us to secure this outcome!”