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Access, For the Moment, Denied to Government Funding Puts Station Project On Hold

Published on: 31 Oct, 2021
Updated on: 3 Nov, 2021

Ash Vale Station – Google Street View

By Martin Giles

Reluctance by the Department for Transport to confirm funding for a project to improve access at Ash Vale Station has thrown the future of the project in doubt.

Petition organiser Dan McHugh expects there to be “uproar” at the news.

The Conservative borough councillor for Ash South & Tongham, Paul Spooner, who refuses to accept questions from The Guildford Dragon, wrote a comment on the article Petition Succeeds – Ash Vale Station Finally Set to Get Step-free Access blaming it and local Lib Dems for “prematurely” reporting that the project was to proceed.

Cllr Paul Spooner

He wrote: “Whilst this would be excellent news for the community if it was true, I have waited for a few days to see this story corrected. But perhaps because the Lib Dems (as usual), as the “jump on a bandwagon party” released a PR on this prematurely, The Dragon has chosen not to correct the story…

“Surrey County Council had agreed funding of £300k towards the Ash Vale project and Ash Parish Council had also agreed funding, if needed. However, just a few days prior to the announcement, DfT decided to put funding on hold and that remains the position today, as far as I am aware.

“Therefore the article is misleading at best and plainly wrong at worst. I trust the bandwagon party will apologise for misleading the electorate once again. On a personal level, I truly wish funding has been confirmed, and let’s hope that does happen sooner rather than later, but it won’t be the Lib Dems making that happen.”

But BBC LDRS reporter Julie Armstrong said that her report was written in good faith, based on a report presented to the SCC Cabinet on Tuesday (October 26) by County Cllr Matt Furniss (Con, Shalford).

Extract from Cllr Furniss’s report

The report did not indicate that the funding was provisional or that DfT had not yet approved funding. It stated: “Ash Vale Station access: Providing a funding contribution of £300,000 [by SCC] will attract over £5 million investment from Network Rail to deliver a fully accessible station at Ash Vale.”

Ms Armstrong only received confirmation from DfT on Friday evening (October 29) that their funding approval decision of Network Rail’s contribution was on hold.

Petition organiser Dan McHugh said: “I have been campaigning for Step-Free access at Ash Vale station for a number of years. On Wednesday (October 27), I was overjoyed to read [Julie Armstrong’s] article – stating that the necessary funding had finally been approved. The article stated that Surrey County Council has provided £300k, with Network Rail also committing £5 million.

“I shared the news on local social media community groups. I took it in good faith that the news article was factual. The reaction was amazing. It brought home exactly why I started the campaign. Access would make a huge difference to a large number of people in the community. Congratulations are still coming in.

“I can see how this was perceived to be concrete and it is unfortunate that this is not the case. It appears that the wording “will attract” is not yet concrete and there is more to do.

“I will now need to let the local community know that the news is not quite as positive as I had first implied. I am expecting an uproar. However, I am pleased recent events have raised the profile of the campaign and the need for action.

“I remain committed to the campaign and will continue to push until the necessary funding is secured. I thank the local community, our local MP [Conservative Michael Gove] and local councillors for their ongoing commitment to the campaign.“

Cllr Carla Morson

The Lib Dem county councillor for Ash, Carla Morson, said: “I’m extremely disappointed to learn that step-free access at Ash Vale Station is in jeopardy. The implementation of this project, subject to a final business case, was agreed at the Cabinet meeting of Surrey County Council on October 26 2021.

“Agreement was given on the basis of a misleading report of the availability of external funding. To discover that the £5 million+ funding from Network Rail/DfT was not confirmed prior to the report being presented to SCC Cabinet and is not currently forthcoming will be a huge blow to Dan McHugh and our local community. I will continue to support this campaign and get step-free access at our local station.”

Cllr Matt Furniss

On Monday (November 1), asked when he first knew that the government funding had not yet been approved, Cllr Matt Furniss said:  “The bulk of the funding for the accessibility works at Ash Vale Station is from the Department for Transport, and we’re currently seeking clarification from them and Network Rail over the project’s status. Surrey County Council approved its contribution at its cabinet meeting last week, and remains committed to supporting these vital improvements.”

And LDRS reporter Julie Armstrong wrote: “At the end of last week a Department for Transport (DfT) spokesperson said: ‘As of now, no funding has been confirmed.

‘We are aware of the proposals developed for improving accessibility around Ash Vale station, and we continue to work alongside Network Rail and South Western Railway to identify funding solutions.’ “

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test 2 Responses to Access, For the Moment, Denied to Government Funding Puts Station Project On Hold

  1. Dan McHugh Reply

    October 31, 2021 at 5:32 pm

    I have been campaigning for step-free access at Ash Vale station for a number of years. On Wednesday, October 27, I was overjoyed to read [Julie Armstrong’s] article stating that the necessary funding had finally been approved. The article stated that Surrey County Council has provided £300, with Network Rail also committing £5 million.

    I shared the news on local social media community groups. I took it in good faith that the news article was factual. The reaction was amazing. It brought home exactly why I started the campaign. Access would make a huge difference to a large number of people in the community. Congratulations are still coming in.

    Following the article, I was in discussion with Cllr Paul Spooner and Cllr Matt Furniss. They expressed concerns on the accuracy of the article – as they had not been made aware of Network Rail committing funding for this project.

    It has since come to light that their concerns were justified. They have confirmed that whilst 300k from Surrey County Council has been confirmed, commitment from Network Rail is still outstanding. This has been confirmed by the Department for Transport.

    Ms Armstrong have also confirmed likewise with the Department for Transport. She confirmed that her sources for their article were Ash Parish Council and Surrey County Council articles.

    The SCC report states: “Ash Vale Station access: Providing a funding contribution of £300,000 will attract over £5m investment from Network Rail to deliver a fully accessible station at Ash Vale.”

    I can see how this was perceived this to be concrete. It is therefore unfortunate that this is not the case. It appears that the wording “will attract” is not yet concrete and there is more to do.

    I will now need to let the local community know that the news is not quite as positive as I had first implied. I am expecting an uproar. However, I am pleased recent events have raised the profile of the campaign and the need for action. I remain committed to the campaign and will continue to push until the necessary funding is secured.

    I thank the local community, our local MP and local councillors for their ongoing commitment to the campaign.

  2. Margaret Southam Reply

    November 1, 2021 at 8:42 am

    I have lived in Ash Vale since 1976 and have always found it a struggle negotiating two long flights of steps with a suitcase. Because of mobility problems I now have to use a rollator which makes it impossible to use Ash Vale station to go on holiday.

    There must be many other residents with disabilities in the same boat hoping that the step-free access to Ash Vale station goes ahead as promised.

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