At its meeting on January 28th 2020, Alfreton Town Councillors met with representatives from East Midlands Railways (EMR) as part of their ongoing campaign to protect direct services from Alfreton to London and provide long overdue step free access at the station.
In respect to the December 2020 proposal to abolish direct services to the capital, the meeting heard how the timing of the franchise award had compressed the preparation of the consultation process and EMR acknowledged that this process could have been much better. The meeting also heard how operational needs arising from fleet changes and reductions in high speed trains had forced the proposed changes, which were as a result of the recent franchise award.
The meeting received a letter from the Secretary of State for Transport noting that timetable proposals were a matter for EMR, although this was contradicted at the meeting where a number of potential suggestions from members to retain the services to London were dismissed due to timetable requirements set by the Minister’s Department. In addition to raising serious concerns around inadequate consultation process, members raised issues around economic and environmental impacts, the challenges faced in changing trains at Nottingham, premium fares via Chesterfield and anticipated loss of evening services from Nottingham.
There was some positive news in respect to the late evening services from Nottingham, where EMR committed to replacing the removed London services with local services, details which were not in the consultation document, or seemingly on offer, as recently as November.
Councillor Scott Walker Leader of the Council drew the debate to a close by summarising the discussions and commented that in his near twenty years’ service on the Council, that he could not recall a matter in which: MP’s, the County, Borough and Town and Parish Councils were all agreed on. He urged EMR to find a way to retain the London services and recognise not only the views on the civic leaders, but the near 4000 people who had signed both electronic and paper petitions.
After concluding discussions around the timetable changes, attention moved the long-promised access improvements to platform 2. Members were reminded of an Equality Act action from a local family, which the Town Council helped instigate some years ago. They also heard of comments via social media of rail user’s concerns that the matter of access has taken too long to resolve.
The meeting heard that one of the rail organisations had denied any liability and how legal papers had gone astray. An EMR representative described parts of the process as appalling and that as far as EMR is concerned, he would ensure that the matter is put in the appropriate hands.
Councillor Scott Walker commented that ‘it’s simply not acceptable that a station with footfall in excess of three hundred thousand people per year does not have ‘Access for All ‘ to both platforms ‘
and members generally echoed their frustrations that the bridge access dilemma has gone on for far too long.
In proposing that the Town Council should continue its opposition to the timetable changes and continue to campaign to ensure ‘Access for All’ at the Station Councillor Scott Walker said that ‘this highlights the failings in the franchise system, where there is seemingly a merry-go-round between Ministers, Network Rail and Train Operators.’