ESSEX: Lift switch-off angers passengers

MILLIONS of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been spent installing a much-needed lift at Audley End station – but rail chiefs have angered passengers by saying it cannot be used after 7pm.

Work on a �3 million lift and footbridge, which was financed by the Department for Transport’s Access for All fund, has recently been completed at the station near Saffron Walden.

Designed to make it easier for disabled people, as well as those carrying heavy bags, to access the platform from the station entrance, the lift has angered some travellers because of its short opening times.

Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst said he had been contacted by a number of elderly and disabled constituents who felt the evening closure of the lift was discriminating against them.

“Having spent all that money and having gone to the trouble of installing the thing, you would think National Express East Anglia would want to make the best use of it,” he said.

“I’m battling with the rail operator to see if there is any way the lift can be opened for longer. It is discrimination against people who can’t cross by using the footbridge and need to use the facility in the evening.”

Sir Alan said that it was a particular concern for people who wanted to use the lift and were travelling on senior railcards and other off-peak travel tickets.

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Given that off-peak trains do not leave London until after 6.34pm, anyone travelling on a cheap day return will not be able to use the lift when they get back to Audley End Station because it will have been switched off.

Sir Alan said: “It’s not just people with disabilities who find this service useful, but anyone travelling with heavy luggage or has young children and a pushchair.

“From what I understand, the lift is closed in the evenings to protect it from acts of vandalism. If that’s the case it’s a sad indictment on our society.”

The station is manned after 7pm by one member of staff and trains continue to arrive until 11.23pm.

A spokesman for station operator National Express East Anglia said: “The passenger lifts at Audley End station are available for customers to use throughout the majority of the day.

“We would advise any customers who require travel assistance at Audley End at other times to contact our assisted travel team on 08000 282878, ideally 24 hours in advance of their journey for assistance arrangements to be made.”

Construction work started in July last year with the aim of providing passengers with step-free access to the platforms. New CCTV cameras have also been installed and the platforms have been resurfaced with a tactile paving.

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