Reader's Letter: Access for All at Handforth Station: A Progress Report

Since founding the Friends of Handforth Station (FoHS) in 1996, it has been the dream of FoHS president, Mike Bishop, to make the station platforms more accessible. In 2018, HM Government announced that they were to continue with a new funding tranche of their nationwide Access for All scheme – to provide "an obstacle free, accessible route to and between the platforms" of railway stations.

Considering the long flights of 35 steps needed to access either platform at Handforth station and the major house building projects destined for the Handforth area, officers of FoHS considered there was an overwhelming case to make an application for funding from the Access for All scheme. (Figure 1)

Such applications must be accompanied by Governance for Railways Investment Projects (Grip 1 and Grip2) - studies involving a description of the work to be done, how such work might affect existing railway infrastructure and how such work might be carried out. GRIP 1 having already been undertaken by Network Rail, enquiries by FoHS revealed that the costs of a GRIP 2 study approximated to £20,000. FoHS were grateful to receive grants of £10,000 from Cheshire East Council, £5,000 from the Seedcorn funds of Northern Rail and £5,000 from Handforth Parish Council. These grants met the costs of a GRIP 2 study by GHDLivigunn. The study report recommended installation of a pair of lifts at an
estimated cost of over £2m.

Once the GRIP 2 report had been received FoHS, in collaboration with others, assembled a grant application to Access for All (Figure 2). With the support of local MP Esther McVey, the completed application was submitted in November 2018. In April 2019 Andrew Jones MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Transport with responsibility for railways) visited Handforth Station to announce that FoHS' application to Access for All had proved successful. (Figure 3) The overall delivery manager for the installations at the station was to be Network Rail.

February 2021 saw Network Rail surveyors taking theodolite measurements at platform level (Figure 4). In April 2021, and again in November 2023, Network Rail surveyors carried out borehole drilling in land adjacent to the northbound platform (Figure 5). Quite early on it was recognised that a high voltage electricity cable located adjacent to the southbound platform would have to be inactivated and diverted. Severance of this cable was completed in July 2023 (Figure 6).

Rory Kingdon, Senior Sponsor with Network Rail very recently contacted both FoHS and Handforth Town Clerk to say that preliminary high level designs for the lift installations will be produced by July 2024 with their finalisation likely by the end of the year. It is anticipated that work will start on site in August 2025. Due to the constrained nature of the site and weight restrictions on the road bridge, it is envisaged that the process of lift installation will take 6 months. FoHS' dream of access for all at Handforth Station may thus become realised by the spring of 2026.

Councillor Roger Small


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