Biggleswade commuter ticket queues highlight need for station improvements, say campaigners

PUBLISHED: 13:00 13 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:07 13 September 2017

Queues for the ticket machines at Biggleswade railway station on Tuesday morning. Picture: Ben Reeve

Queues for the ticket machines at Biggleswade railway station on Tuesday morning. Picture: Ben Reeve

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Some commuters missed their trains at Biggleswade railway station this week because of long queues at ticket machines – with town councillors and campaigners demanding facilities be upgraded in line with demand.

One of the ticket machines at Biggleswade railway station was out of order and the ticket office was closed. One of the ticket machines at Biggleswade railway station was out of order and the ticket office was closed.

Disgruntled London-bound passengers tweeted their annoyance as they stood queuing for 15 minutes on the platform to buy tickets for journeys at 7.30am yesterday.

The ticket office was shut because of staff shortages, and one of the two ticket machines was not working.

Natalie Doig tweeted to say she has reported the ticket office closed on three occasions including this and last week. She is visually impaired and has been campaigning with other members of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, Labour Party members, the town council and Better Biggleswade for greater accessibility at the station – including lifts, better handrail and tactile markings on the platform edges, and a taxi rank.

She told the Comet: “The station is getting busier all the time and it’s getting a lot harder to access the platforms.

“For people with sight problems it really isn’t very accessible.”

Natalie has met with councillors and with the access manager at Govia Thameslink – which operates the Great Northern route – to lobby for improvements.

Ben Reeve also tweeted on Tuesday at 7.30am: “Biggleswade station a mess. Ticket office staff on holiday, only one machine working. 15 min queue, missed my train!”

A Govia spokesman told passengers the firm was “very sorry” for difficulties buying tickets, which it put down to a staff member due to cover a regular colleague’s rest day falling ill.

But the ticket office is only open to 2.15pm each day, and has just one member of staff.

Biggleswade’s town councillors have long protested that the town does not have enough transport infrastructure to cope with the new King’s Reach development and the plethora of other housing which is earmarked as part of Central Bedfordshire Council’s local plan.

Deputy mayor Madeline Russell told the Comet the town council had written to Network Rail on a number of occasions about the facilities at the station, but had not received satisfactory replies.

She said: “I think we’re getting to the saturation, not just for train travel but for people using the A1 by car.

“There is a lack of investment yet they keep putting ticket prices up.

“I don’t think we are going to get a better train service until we get some investment in it from the government.”

Mrs Russell said that while the station platforms were recently upgraded to cater for 12-car trains, commuters often tell her it is standing room only by the time services get to Biggleswade.

Town councillors say there is a lack of commuter parking at the station and that urgent action is needed to provide more parking for train users and for people using Biggleswade town centre.

Mrs Russell added: “I feel really sorry for the commuters. More commuters are moving into the town and all they are trying to do is to get to work and we should be making provision for them.”

Councillors have also campaigned for lifts to be installed at the station as the platforms can only be accessed via steps – with disabled passengers having to travel to Sandy to board trains.

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