Light at the end of tunnel for lift plans

Access problem: Wheelchair users cannot access the centre platforms at Leyland Railway Station

Access problem: Wheelchair users cannot access the centre platforms at Leyland Railway Station

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Plans to upgrade Leyland Railway Station and provide much-needed lifts for wheelchair users have now taken a significant step forward.

Network Rail has just secured funding from the Department of Transport to draw up designs for the work, which have been in the pipeline for the last five years.

The concern is that wheelchair users cannot currently access the two centre platforms, and calls have been made to bring the aging station into the 21st century.

The long-awaited scheme involves providing access to all platforms for wheelchair users, people with prams and those with limited mobility.

Designs, which cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to draw up, can now be put forward for a project featuring three lifts, staircases and a new footbridge linking all the platforms.

Once this is done, Network Rail will need to apply for more funding to carry out the work.

Coun Margaret Smith, Leader of South Ribble Council, which has been pushing the scheme forward, said: “The need to improve Leyland Railway Station has been a priority for us for a long time, so I’m pleased this latest project has cleared a major hurdle in the funding process.

“Clearly there’s still some way to go before the scheme finally gets the green light, and we will continue to press for further improvements.

“There have been some steps forward over the last couple of years, including the installation of new shelters and real-time information boards.

“We’re on track to move forward with the access improvements and Network Rail can start drawing up the plans, which are vital to bring the station into the 21st century.”

She added the funding for the designs was in the region of ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds.’

If the next bid is successful, work could start towards the end of next year or early 2014, and could take up to a year to complete.

Gary Tordoff, Network Rail’s route enhancements manager, said: “With Department of Transport funding now in place, we can start work on more detailed design plans for upgrading the station, to give passengers the standard of facilities that they have a right to expect.”

This time last year, the Guardian reported how Northern Rail, Network Rail and Lancashire County Council provided £450,000 to build new platform shelters, install CCTV, and build a new ticket office in Leyland.

It was hoped the ticket office would be built this year, but it has now come to light that the existing footbridge is in the way of where it is expected to go.

The plan now is to demolish the bridge, build the ticket office, and then build a new footbridge. Network confirmed that the money is still available for that work.

If no funding is secured for the footbridge and lift work after the designs are submitted, it will be back to the drawing board for the ticket office plan.