COUNCIL funding for new lifts at Pokesdown Station has been approved, with the installation of the new lifts and improvements to the station set to go ahead.

The Council will be allocating up to £2.6 million from BCP’s Future Fund to improve Pokesdown Railway Station through a jointly agreed financial arrangement with South Western

Railway (SWR) and Network Rail (NR).

Subject to approval from the Department for Transport (DfT) both SWR and NR are committed to sourcing £3.1m towards the overall project cost of £5.7m, with the Council then covering the shortfall up to a maximum of £2.6m.

The proposed funding will be spent on the replacement of the old goods only lifts with accessible passenger lifts that would then benefit all rail users; refurbishment works on the bridge across the railway line to connect both lifts and other much needed modernisation of the Station facilities.

It is hoped that this investment will provide essential access benefits to all users but especially for wheelchair users.

Local resident campaigns in support of these improvements have been ongoing for many years with ward councillor support throughout.

During a discussion on the matter at full council, ward Councillor Andy Jones said: "To say I am happy that we have been asked to agree the recommendations, is an understatement and it is testament to the incredible hard work and dedication of residents and businesses in Boscombe and Pokesdown areas who have campaigned tirelessly to make pokesdown station accessible to all groups within our community.

“There have been many setbacks over nearly 11 years but the sheer effort and endeavor along with the determination to succeed has been abundantly clear for all to see in getting us to this position. Giving up was never an option.”

The provision of lifts was originally one of the obligations in SWR’s 2017 franchise

agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT).

Subsequent detailed surveys of the existing lift shafts indicated however that their conversion would be significantly more complex and expensive than originally envisaged.

SWR’s 2017 franchise agreement was replaced by a new National Rail Contract with

the DfT in May 2021.

This reconfirmed a £1.6m funding contribution from SWR towards the provision of lifts at the station, subject to third party funding being confirmed to meet any shortfall.

BCP will now provide the shortfall of up to £2.6m to assist in building the lifts and other improvements at the station.

During a discussion on the matter at full council, Councillor Mike Green said: "The Council taxpayer is not subsidising South Western Railway's facilities.

“The facilities themselves are the property of Network Rail which is publicly owned and only leased to SWR as the current franchisee, indeed it is SWR's £1.6m contribution which is subsiding public facilities.

“When SWR's franchise ends so will any benefit that they derive, in contrast our council tax payers will be able to continue to use these much enhanced facilities forever.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, it is unique to Pokesdown station, it delivers on the hopes and aspirations held by so many for so long and it provides our residents with close to six million pounds worth of improvements to a public asset for less than half that sum.”