In a victory for local campaigners, Motspur Park station is set to be made 'step-free' - but Raynes Park station has been overlooked yet again.
For several years local Liberal Democrats have campaigned with members of the community to make local stations - particularly Raynes Park and Motspur Park - step-free. These stations are currently only accessible by stairs, presenting significant difficulties for wheelchair users, parents with prams and others with mobility problems.
Poor accessibility at these stations has been a key concern of local residents. A record six Liberal Democrat councillors were elected to Merton Council in 2018 on a platform to push for step-free access for all local stations.
In the two years since then the Liberal Democrat councillors have worked hard to build the case for lifts or ramps at these stations, and to persuade politicians from other parties to support the campaign. Liberal Democrats successfully pressed the Council administration to accept a Lib Dem proposal to back step-free access at Raynes Park and Motspur Park, and helped encourage the train operator to make a bid into the Government's fund to make stations accessible.
On Wednesday the pressure finally told, and the Chancellor agreed a package of support to fund accessibility improvements at Motspur Park.
Plans to build a nine storey block of flats at Wimbledon Chase Station and remodel the station entrance were published by developers just before Christmas.
Dundonald Ward councillor Anthony Fairclough met with representatives from the developers and their agents on 16 January.
Following the meeting, Cllr Fairclough said:
"I can't see how this development can go ahead without doing everything possible to also make the station accessible for everyone. I'm shocked that the developers aren't planning to make the station entrance 'step free' – it affects so many people's lives. I'm urging them to engage with the Council and Network Rail to come up with a workable plan, and I will be meeting with Network Rail about what can be done to make our local stations easier for parents with young children and those with mobility problems to use. Step-free is simply a 'must have' in 2020.
"The developers say they want to create a 'landmark' building for the area. Residents tell me that the imposition of a bock of flats, 9 storeys high – 4 higher than anything nearby – will certainly create a 'landmark'; but for all the wrong reasons! We need new housing that is sympathetic to the area – so hopefully the developers will respond positively to the feedback they're getting. Otherwise there will strong objections from the public when this matter comes to the Planning Applications Committee."
For more on this story, see the Wimbledon Times.
A step back on step free access
Today the Department for Transport announced that it had turned down an application for funding to make Raynes Park and Motspur Park train stations accessible for all.
The decision follows a major campaign by the Merton Lib Dems calling for the installation of lifts or ramps and the two stations, and comes as a shock to the local community who were very supportive of the campaign.
Currently some platforms at Raynes Park station and both platforms at Motspur Park station can only be accessed via stairs, meaning people with prams, wheelchair users and those with mobility problems find it difficult to use the stations.
“We are incredibly disappointed that the Department for Transport has ultimately refused to fund step free access at Raynes Park and Motspur Park stations”, said Cllr Anthony Fairclough, Lib Dem councillor for Dundonald and one of the leaders of the campaign to make the stations step free.
“As a local parent myself I know full well the struggles people have to go through because of the lack of a lift or ramp at Raynes Park and Motspur Park sations. Yet, despite our compelling case for making the stations accessible, the Government have chosen to ignore the plight of local residents.”
“This is a real kick in the teeth for our community, which has had to put up with the lack of accessible stations for far too long”, added Cllr Eloise Bailey, Lib Dem councillor for West Barnes. “But this is not the end of the story. We will continue to lead the campaign for accessible access at Raynes Park, Motspur Park and all stations across the borough.”
Cllr Bailey and Cllr Fairclough have been working since summer 2018 to encourage the train company to apply for this funding, and to get Merton Council to agree to look at a financial contribution to help the application.
As a result of their campaign, South Western Railway applied for the monies to improve the stations and Merton Council agreed to provide a letter of support for these improvement works, indicating that they would consider supporting the projects financially should the applications be successful.
And in September 2018, Council bosses accepted a Lib Dem proposal to work to support access improvements at stations across the borough.
We are really pleased to hear that train company South Western Railway have applied to the Government's ‘Access for All’ fund for funding to put a lift or ramps into Raynes Park and Motspur Park stations.
Lib Dem councillors Eloise Bailey (West Barnes) and Anthony Fairclough (Dundonald) have been working since Summer to encourage the train company to apply, and to get Merton Council to agree to look at a financial contribution to help the application.
Following the councillors' work, Merton Council has confirmed they provided a letter of support for these improvement works, indicating that they would consider supporting the projects financially should the applications be successful. And in September, Council bosses accepted a Lib Dem proposal to work to support access improvements at stations across the borough.
Thank you for signing our petition on this, and please keep letting us know your problems with using the stations.
Merton Council has passed a Liberal Democrat motion to help get lifts and ramps at local stations.
The plan commits the Council to look into positive action it could take to improve accessibility of stations across the borough, including encouraging and assisting train companies to apply for funding designed to make more stations in Merton accessible, and step-free.
The government have recently announced the award of a new franchise for South West Trains, to commence on 20th August 2017 and run for the next 7 years.
As part of this contract, the franchisee will have set targets for improving passenger satisfaction with stations. Raynes Park and Motspur Park stations are, unfortunately, not specifically mentioned for improved access. However, an annual £2.6 million fund will be available for improvements to facilities and services from 2020, and local campaigners will continue to push for improving accessibility to our stations as soon as possible.
Residents and local campaigners have been shocked to discover that South West Trains is not pushing to make local train stations more accessible.
Merton Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for step-free access at Motspur Park and Raynes Park train stations.