Since my last post, there have been a couple of meetings in the background to understand what is being proposed.
Firstly, I’d like to say that what I write here is what I know about the proposals. It was disheartening to hear people state that access would be permanently blocked to the cemetery and then saying that the information had come from my blog. I had to go back and check what I’d written to make sure it was accurate. It was. The rumour mill had kicked it, Chinese whispers had distorted the truth and upset people needlessly.
At the end of October, senior representatives from WBC, the Cemetery, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the American Battlements Monuments Commission (ABMC) and Southwestern Railway (SWR) met up to understand more.
SWR presented their data for determining the proposals and we argued that the data was flawed and that other possible options hadn’t been considered. It was agreed to meet at the station to look at it in more detail. That meeting happened on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, we had an opportunity to examine my preferred option which is to put a gate line (ticket barriers) at Platform Two and a gate line at Platform One. The principal idea was to open up the redundant rooms on Platform Two and use the space. SWR argued this wasn’t possible because of regulations concerning evacuating platforms in emergency situations and regulations concerning the number of people that could pass through the gate line and be funnelled down the stairs. They also argued that if this was to occur, the design on Platform One wouldn’t work currently and that also had issues with alternative proposals. Personally, I think the proposals can be accommodated if the will is there and that it’s 100% down to money as a second gate line will instantly add about £250k before any enabling works are done. The will isn’t there.
The discussions also covered the access proposals to the cemetery and the disabled access to Platform One to fully understand what is being proposed. The proposal is for magnetically locked doors that will be opened by an intercom / buzzer. Crucially, in an emergency or when there is no one operating the gate line, the doors will be open.
The existing foldaway gate at the cemetery entrance will stay in place and continue to operate as it does now.
I thought that even exposing the issue around the gate line not preventing people bunking the trains with people claiming to be going to the cemetery and then boarding a train would carry weight. It did not. We are dealing with a project team that has to implement a solution as per the agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT) when being awarded the franchise. It’s a box ticking exercise and whether it actually improves revenue collection is a secondary matter as far as I can see.
So, where are we then? Well, the reality is that access to the cemetery isn’t being blocked. Access to the cemetery is being controlled when the station is manned and is uncontrolled when the station isn’t manned.
There are no further meetings planned to discuss this. The other thing to note is that the timescales have slipped and it is now summertime next year when SWR are looking to do the work. They have promised to keep me in the loop.