LONG-AWAITED lifts will now not be installed at a railway station until towards the end of next year, councillors have been told.

South Western Railway (SWR) said work at Pokesdown station would not be completed until September 2020 at the earliest, despite its franchise agreement setting a deadline of December 31.

Councillor Andy Jones, who has been a figurehead of the long-running campaign to improve access, said he was “absolutely disgusted” by the announcement.

Speaking at Monday’s meeting of the BCP Council scrutiny board, SWR head of station property, Alistair Wright, said assessing the condition of existing lifts shafts had been “long and torturous”.

He was requested to attend Monday’s meeting to provide an update on the project due to concerns raised by Cllr Jones about a lack of action.

“From where we are at the moment, those lifts are unlikely to be installed until the end of 2020,” he said. “If everything goes according to plan then it would indicate September 2020.”

Campaigners at the meeting urged the council to pressure SWR with “utmost vigour”, saying their request was about “basic rights and inclusivity”.

The 2017 franchise agreement issued by the Department for Transport (DfT) had required lifts to be installed by December 31 this year.

Mr Wright said it had been aware “for several months” that it had been facing issues which meant it was unlikely to meet that deadline.

He said that contractors had struggled to access existing lift shafts and has said scaffolding will now need to be erected to allow detailed surveys to be carried out.

Cllr Jones said SWR was “kicking the can down the road” and that it had not been taking the issues “particularly seriously” compared to other stations.

In a statement published after the meeting, SWR said it was "very sorry" for the delay.

"We have been trying to establish a safe method of working to assess the condition of the disused lift shafts at Pokesdown station," it said.

"As we discussed at the public meeting, we are working closely with our partners to ensure the project moves on as quickly as possible.

"However, safety has to be our number one priority."