A £1million investment has been signed off to significantly improve disability access at Billingham railway station.

Billingham is the only regularly served station in the North East with no access for passengers with mobility problems to any of its platforms. Currently, from the car park and drop off point, access onto platforms 1 and 2 is only available via a stepped footbridge.

The scheme will see the existing pedestrian footbridge, which is approaching the end of its life, replaced by a new one served by lifts, making it step-free and suitable for wheelchair users. On top of this, a series of car park and access route improvements will take place to make the station even better to use for all passengers.

The £3.59million project will be delivered by Network Rail, which is also contributing £1.39million to the plans, with a further £1million funding coming from Department for Transport’s Access For All fund and £200,000 from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.

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Design work for the new access and facilities has been ongoing, ahead of work starting in March 2022 that is due to be complete by November.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “I’m delighted we can move these plans a step closer to reality to make it easier for local people, especially those with mobility issues that find it difficult or impossible to use stairs.

“The station is a vital lifeline for many people in the surrounding area, connecting them with Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and the wider North East but for too long has been inaccessible to many. This funding will allow us to install new lifts and improve access points to make sure no one is being left behind and make the station a real option for people like wheelchair users.

“This is just the latest in a long list of station improvements right across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool that we’re helping to drive forward. These include a £22.5million investment in Middlesbrough station to get it ready for London services in just a few short months, to the complete transformation of Darlington station to give everyone here the fast, reliable and accessible transport links they deserve.”

The Northern Echo: Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen at Billingham StationTees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen at Billingham Station

Matt Rice, Route Director for Network Rail’s North and East route, said: “I’m really pleased this eagerly anticipated and much needed project to improve accessibility at Billingham is now ready to be delivered. We’re delighted to be contributing towards the funding of the footbridge alongside our partners in both central and local government and will continue to support the aspirations of Mayor Houchen and other railway stakeholders as we work together to keep improving the railway for existing and future passengers in the Tees Valley.”

Councillor Mike Smith, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport said: “Billingham station is the only railway station in the Tees Valley with no disabled access. For a long time, we’ve thought this was just unacceptable and that’s why in recent years we’ve been working hard to bring this scheme to fruition and make sure that wheelchair users and those with pushchairs and prams can access the public transport they need for work, leisure and to visit friends and family.”

Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, said: “I’m pleased that following my intervention earlier this year, Network Rail reviewed their timescales to improve Billingham Station and committed to a 2022 end date for the project. While it’s still some time off, the end of 2022 gives us a time to aim for.

"I’ll continue to hold Network Rail to account and press them to carry out the work as quickly as they can to ensure everyone can access Billingham Station.

The Northern Echo: Artists impression of new look Billingham StationArtists impression of new look Billingham Station

“It is simply not on that a train station in the twenty-first century doesn’t have step-free access to its platforms. Local people and councillors have been campaigning with me on this issue for a number of years and it is through this effort that we are finally seeing Billingham get the funding it needs to become step-free.

"I hope this commitment from Network Rail gives everyone assurance that the station will see much needed improvements by the end of next year.”

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