Alok Sharma, the local Member of Parliament for Reading West, has welcomed a positive announcement about plans to improve accessibility at Tilehurst station.
Alok has had a long correspondence with both Great Western Railway (GWR) and Network Rail about the need to make Tilehurst station more accessible, particularly for those with disabilities, the elderly and parents of young children.
In November 2018, Alok supported a formal bid made by GWR to secure Government money from the Access for All fund to improve access at Tilehurst station. The Access for All fund was launched in 2006 and has installed accessible, step free routes at over 200 stations. Around another 1,500 stations have also benefitted from smaller scale access improvement. Theale station is benefitting from Access for All funding, following a lengthy campaign by Theale Parish Council, West Berkshire Council and local Theale residents, which Alok supported.
Although the Tilehurst bid was unsuccessful, Alok has continued to press the case for Tilehurst station with the Rail Minister Nusrat Ghani MP and Network Rail. Following his lobbying on behalf of his constituents Alok is delighted with the Network Rail announcement that development work will now take place to find a viable solution to add new lifts at the station for the first time. The development work, which will start shortly, will be funded by Network Rail from within existing budgets, with plans being ready for a design and build contract in 2020.
Tilehurst station, which serves more than half a million passengers a year, had a new footbridge installed as part of the £6 billion modernisation scheme to bring marked improvements to the Great Western Main Line in 2015.
Network Rail will now undertake development work to find a viable means to add new lifts at the station for the first time. Planned improvements at Tilehurst form part of Network Rail’s multi-billion-pound Railway Upgrade Plan, which is the biggest investment in the railway since the Victorian era.
Alok Sharma MP said: “Having worked on this issue for some time, I am absolutely delighted we have made progress on improving accessibility at Tilehurst station. This issue matters to many local commuters and I am grateful to both the Rail Minister and Network Rail for making this excellent decision. I will continue to pursue this matter with vigour with Network Rail and the Department for Transport until we have actually delivered the lifts providing access for commuters to all four platforms.”
Rail Minister Nusrat Ghani MP said: “I am pleased to have worked with Alok and Network Rail to resolve accessibility at Tilehurst station. Alok has repeatedly made representations on behalf of his constituents and was disappointed not to have secured Access for All funding which was £300 million for stations across the UK. Network Rail will now work with Alok to ensure that lifts are in place at Tilehurst station.”
Mike Gallop, Western Route Director at Network Rail, said: “Improving accessibility is a key priority as part of our focus on putting passengers first. The number of people using Tilehurst station has doubled in the last 20 years and it is important that we unlock the railway network so more people can use it. Development work is beginning now, and we welcome the support from Alok Sharma MP and the Minister.”
Joe Graham, Business Assurance Director at Great Western Railway, said: “We really welcome this news to find a solution to increase accessibility at one of our key stations in the Thames Valley. We look forward to building upon our already strong alliance with Network Rail to help deliver improved accessibility for our passengers at Tilehurst.”
Photo (L-R): Alok Sharma MP, Great Western Railway Business Assurance Director Joe Graham, Network Rail Western Route Director Mike Gallop, Rail Minister Nusrat Ghani MP.
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