(News release Network Rail:) 20 February 2023 - Rail passengers in West Cornwall are set to enjoy a more accessible St Ives branch line following confirmation of a step-free footbridge to be built at St Erth station.
A new step-free bridge with lifts will be installed at St Erth as part of the Government’s Access for All programme, turning the Grade II listed station fully accessible for the first time since it was built in 1852.
Network Rail’s contractors BAM Nuttall will start construction in late spring with the footbridge expected to be completed and open to passengers the following winter.
The project will see the current footbridge, which does not provide step-free access between the platforms, carefully removed and rebuilt at Cranmore station on the East Somerset Railway – a heritage steam railway.
This latest project is evidence of Network Rail’s continued investment into the railway in West Cornwall, particularly on the St Ives branch line which carries almost a million passengers a year.
In February 2021, Network Rail completed a £3 million track upgrade which marked the biggest track investment on the St Ives branch line in 60 years, ensuring passengers continue to enjoy smooth and reliable journeys between St Erth and St Ives. Most recently, in March 2022, a £1.14 million investment to extend the platforms at St Erth and Lelant has enabled GWR to run longer five-carriage trains that are able to stop at all stations along the St Ives branch line, providing an additional 2,000 seats a day.
St Erth station has also already benefited from accessibility improvements with tactile paving installed on all platforms throughout the station, helping passengers with visual impairment to safely get on and off trains.
This ongoing investment has and continues to greatly support business and tourism in and around St Ives, with this iconic railway line transporting large numbers of passengers to and from this picturesque harbour town, particularly during the busy summer months when thousands of tourists visit this part of Cornwall.
Alina Wolfe Murray, Network Rail senior sponsor, said: “We are delighted to be continuing investing and improving in the railway in West Cornwall for the benefit of our passengers.
“The St Ives branch line is a stunning and highly popular line, particularly during the summer months, and this latest project will ensure the railway is welcoming and accessible by providing step-free access at St Erth for the first time.
“Our ongoing upgrades to this line will make a huge difference to thousands of people who visit Cornwall each year, helping them travel by train with confidence and continue to support local residents, businesses and the tourism industry.”
Sharon Holloway, GWR station manager for West Cornwall, said: ‘We recognise the key role that rail travel has in supporting the local and national economy and we are delighted that this improvement work has been approved, ensuring everyone can take advantage of the benefits of the railway.’
Derek Thomas, MP for West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: ‘I remember visiting St Erth station to discuss the need for step-free access across the station long before the multi modal hub work commenced so I’m really pleased that this new bridge and lifts are soon to be installed. I’m part of a group looking to develop low carbon transport options across Penwith and making it possible for everyone to use St Erth takes a big step forward. The huge growth in passenger numbers at St Erth is brilliant – even more so now everyone will soon have this option.’
Connor Donnithorne, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for transport, said: ‘We are committed to ensuring that Cornwall is accessible to everyone who is living, visiting or working in the Duchy. The improvements to this key interchange is very good news for residents, commuters and visitors and means that even more can use public transport to travel to work, and for health, education, shopping and leisure. It means less reliance on the car in the shift towards more sustainable transport with better integrated rail and bus facilities.’
Phil Bowcock, Operations Manager for BAM Nuttall, said: ‘We’re delighted to be appointed to deliver these further improvements at St Erth station, helping to make the area more accessible for rail passengers of all abilities. We will maintain access to the station throughout the installation and will do all we can to keep disruption to a minimum while we complete our work.’
The Access for All programme was launched in 2006 to address the issues faced by disabled passengers and passengers with mobility restraints (such as heavy luggage or pushchairs) when using railway stations in Great Britain.
The funding is used to create an obstacle free, accessible route from the station entrance to the platforms. This generally includes providing lifts or ramps, as well as associated works and refurbishment along the route.
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