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Pedestrian Access to Guildford Station Footbridge To Be Withdrawn

Published on: 30 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 30 Oct, 2023
Pedestrian access of Guildford station footbridge to be withdrawn on trial basis from Monday 4 December

The “back” or Guildford Park Road entrance to Guildford Station, which leads directly to the footbridge.

By Martin Giles

Pedestrian access of Guildford Station footbridge is to be withdrawn on a trial basis starting in December.

South Western Railway (SWR) and Network Rail will temporarily withdraw pedestrian access across the footbridge for three months between Monday, December 4, and Friday, March 1, 2024.

The trial follows anti-social behaviour towards station staff by fare evaders over many years. It will be used to collect data before SWR and Network Rail apply to permanently withdraw access later next year.

Currently, pedestrians are permitted to use the footbridge as a walking route between Station Approach and Guildford Park Road. Until recently, they were provided with a paper “bridge pass” that allowed them to enter and exit the station via the footbridge.

Cllr Matt Furniss

Reacting to the announcement, the Cabinet member for Transport at Surrey County Council, Matt Furniss, said: “No one should be subjected to any abuse and SWR and the British Transport Police should continue to work to prevent any form of abuse to passengers or staff.

“However, it is really disappointing that yet again SWR are proposing to remove this vital pedestrian link across the railway. The Section 52 agreement allows for pedestrian access up to 20 hours a day. I have raised this with the GBC CEO and have asked that GBC continues to enforce the legal agreement so residents can continue to use the route.”

But local Lib Dem ward councillors seemed more sympathetic with SWR’s position. In a joint statement they said: “Antisocial behaviour causes significant harm to railway staff and makes rail journeys for the travelling public deeply unpleasant. The trial closure is a reasonable step in gathering evidence to address this issue. However, residents are rightly concerned, particularly with respect to the safety of alternative pedestrian routes and the potential for increased traffic around the station.

“As local councillors, we will be monitoring the trial closely over the coming months and will be very interested to see the results.”

Cllr Tom Hunt

And their party colleague, Tom Hunt, who has the lead responsibility for Transport at Guildford Borough Council, was even more supportive of the trial. He added: “SWR has shared evidence of the anti-social behaviour (ASB) being directed towards their ticket gate staff by individuals claiming to be accessing the station using bridge passes.

“The level of this abuse is completely unacceptable, and I am consequently supportive of a trial to identify to what extent closing the footbridge to non-travel-ticket holders stems the flow of ASB.

“I am disappointed that the actions of a small minority will impact the decent majority of residents.”

Walking across the station footbridge is estimated to be around three minutes quicker than the alternative route across Farnham Road Bridge. However, according to SWR, fare evaders regularly access the station’s platforms and board trains without a valid ticket, having claimed to be using the footbridge as a walking route.

SWR and the British Transport Police say they have recorded a number of incidents where fare evaders have, when challenged, gone on to be verbally and physically abusive towards station staff. Since the beginning of 2023 there have been 60 reports of anti-social behaviour with at least 20 incidents reported to the British Transport Police.

An SWR spokesperson said: “A study commissioned by SWR in November 2022 found that almost 2,000 bridge passes went missing in just 25 days. It is estimated that improper use of the bridge passes has led to hundreds of thousands of pounds being lost through fare evasion.”

The requirement to allow pedestrians to walk through the station and over the bridge was introduced following a planning agreement between the British Railways Board and Guildford Borough Council in 1988.

The arrangements also mean the station is used as a thoroughfare on weekend evenings, with high levels of anti-social behaviour and the need for police and Rail Community Officer presence for non-rail related incidents.

Claire Mann, South Western Railway’s managing director, said: “We cannot accept anti-social behaviour towards our colleagues and as a result we are withdrawing pedestrian access to Guildford station footbridge [for the trial period] which will be used to gather information ahead of an application to permanently withdraw pedestrian access.

“While this may be inconvenient to pedestrians who use the footbridge, we hope that they appreciate that we cannot allow our staff to be verbally or physically abused. We must also address the problem of fare evasion, which is costing hundreds of thousands of pounds every year.”

Mark Killick, Network Rail’s Wessex route director, said: “We know most of our customers wouldn’t dream of behaving like this, but these statistics don’t lie. The data shows our colleagues are regularly being physically or verbally abused by people who are misusing the bridge passes, therefore we’ve got to take action.

“While we recognise the trial removal of the passes will be an inconvenience, we hope people will understand that we have to keep our colleagues and customers safe.”

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Responses to Pedestrian Access to Guildford Station Footbridge To Be Withdrawn

  1. Roshan Bailey Reply

    October 30, 2023 at 11:06 pm

    I find it very sad that the solution being adopted is one which penalises the very people who are using this hugely useful facility peacefully and lawfully, especially as many of the actual culprits are very likely to continue some sort of anti social behaviour anyway and to try other means of ticket evasion.

    While I absolutely agree that staff should not be subject to abuse, the planning agreement was in place for very good reasons and should not be abandoned without every effort being made to find an alternative way of dealing with the problem customers.

  2. Xavier Goodwin Reply

    October 31, 2023 at 9:44 am

    Awful response to the situation. SWR are taking us for fools. They charge a fortune to get anywhere and provide a worse and worse service.

    To punish all citizens for the poor behaviour of some is clearly because they can’t be bothered to look into other solutions or heaven forbid, pay for some.

    The fact that the ticket office at the back of the station is permanently shut just adds to the frustration.

  3. Ian Thomson Reply

    October 31, 2023 at 11:43 am

    This is very sad news. How about just operate it between 9 and 5? Also how about bringing in security guards to deter and tackle the antisocial behaviour? This seems like taking the easy way out and putting the normal law abiding person last.

  4. Helen Reply

    October 31, 2023 at 3:36 pm

    Why can’t they issue platform tickets like they used to?

  5. Frank Emery Reply

    October 31, 2023 at 4:52 pm

    But they are trying to encourage people to use their cycles.

    What an absurd situation, tackle the root cause, not punish the majority of users for the actions of a few imbeciles!

  6. H Trevor Jones Reply

    October 31, 2023 at 8:14 pm

    While there’s not much in it time wise between the footbridge and road bridge routes to get from Guildford Park Road to North Street or the High Street, the road route definitely adds a bit of distance to getting to Waitrose, and you have to endure the narrow pavement by the busy road on the Farnham Road Bridge, which would be dangerous if overcrowded.

    Furthermore, even more seriously, it adds a significant extra distance to the main station entrance hall to use facilities there. These obviously include the booking office needed for tickets unavailable from the machines (eg advance purchase, rover tickets, through tickets to Ireland, seat reservations), or if there’s a long queue for a ticket machine at the footbridge entrance (eg if one of the two machines is out of service).

    The booking office is also needed in order to get extra info, eg about ticket route availability or ticket time availability, particularly on long-distance journeys where the rules are different and less well-known than for journeys just to London. Indeed I’d hope one would be allowed through the footbridge to make such enquiries if they can’t be answered by staff at the footbridge entrance.

  7. Michele Lyon Reply

    November 1, 2023 at 11:37 pm

    I regularly use the SWR footbridge to reach the High Street. Closing this bridge will force many more pedestrians to negotiate the frighteningly narrow pavements on each side of the Farnham Road Bridge. This route is very busy with traffic and toxic fumes.

    It seems SWR has no interest or desire to at least trial access to the bridge between 8am – 6pm which would reduce the number of pedestrians using the Farnham Bridge route.

    The railway company has chosen to do this at the worst time of year when the daylight hours are much reduced; the weather is traditionally worse and in the event of snow, experience has proved the pavements are treacherous as SCC do not clear the footpaths leaving them safe and clear.

    This trial does nothing to encourage reduced car use. It is very disappointing that Cllr Tom Hunt is supporting SWR’s decision. I hope the GBC Onslow councillors will lobby for SWR to rethink.

  8. Laura Wilder Reply

    November 3, 2023 at 10:49 am

    SWR have created an atmosphere of hostility.

    There are repeated announcements about fares and penalties – having purchased my tickets and navigated the barriers – my tickets will then be checked on the train as well.

    This does nothing to engender positive feelings towards the rail provider SWR – although the station staff and on train-staff are generally very accommodating.

    The barriers at busy times create a bottle neck which is very frustrating as often the barriers aren’t working.

    I’m not excusing aggressive behaviour towards staff, but this policy penalises many many regular rail users and why is it being introduced during the winter months?

    Protect profits at all costs and nothing about majority customer experience or safety.

  9. Chris Cooney Reply

    November 4, 2023 at 5:49 pm

    I completely agree with all of the above comments. Pedestrians will now be forced to use the narrow and congested pavement on Farnham Road bridge which, with a winter trial, will often be wet and possibly icy, not to mention the fumes.

    How can our councillors support this policy?

    Presumably any antisocial behaviour will simply shift to the main entrance. If the rail company had more ticket inspectors at the gate and on the trains then this wouldn’t happen.

  10. John Howell Reply

    February 28, 2024 at 3:07 pm

    Quite right. Rule 1 of impact analysis is consider all options. SWR is gathering data just to support one option. And the politicians are asleep the governance front – or should I say free riding till the predictable stats are announced and they can wash their hands.

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