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Theale Station delays 'not good enough'

Parish councillors brand setbacks as 'borderline discrimination'

Frustration over delays to Theale station work

DELAYS to improving access to Theale Station have been branded as “borderline discrimination”.

As reported by the Newbury Weekly News, work to install a new footbridge and lifts as part of a £2.9m scheme to improve accessibility has been delayed by at least two years. 

The Government said that Theale was one of 26 stations to have its funding deferred because it “was not as advanced as other projects”.

Theale Parish Council discussed the delays at a meeting last week. 

Chairman Becky Williams said: “It’s borderline discrimination that Theale has not been done. Don’t they have a duty of care to people using that station?” 

Councillors Jan Richardson and Zoe Fenwick added that there were young mothers, disabled people and elderly people who were struggling to access the station.

“It’s not good enough, is it?” Mrs Richardson said.  

Paul Clifford asked if the parish council could send a letter of encouragement to Network Rail to see what could be done about the delay. 

A spokesman for Network Rail, James Crook, said: “The plans to construct a safe and accessible footbridge at Theale station that will be able to accommodate upcoming electrification work and allow step-free access, both into the station and to all platforms, are under development.

“Work is likely to begin at the beginning of the next funding period (2019-2024).” 

More than 400,000 passengers use Theale station each year. 

Work on the project was meant to be completed in February 2014, but Network Rail and First Great Western were unable to agree on the design. Unexpected work to divert a sewer pipe then delayed the construction of the lifts and footbridge.  

Further delays came after Network Rail became a public sector body and the work was transferred to it, causing contracts to be renegotiated. 

Network Rail then said that it had inherited a three-year-old design, which needed to be compatible with the electrification upgrade to the line through West Berkshire.

The improvements will also provide a new ticket office, development of a park-and-rail facility and a new pedestrian entrance from Brunel Road. 

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