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Sunday, 24 May 2015

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Northern Rail backtracks over car parking ‘error’

SIGNS limiting parking at two Tynedale railway stations have been taken down following a backlash from residents.

Prudhoe's Coun. Peter Nevin with one of the signs restricting parking at the town's transport interchange. The sign has since been removed by Northern Rail.

Two weeks ago, rail operator Northern Rail introduced warning signs at both Prudhoe Transport Interchange and Stocksfield railway station informing users of the car parks that they required a valid train ticket.

In the case of the interchange, which is owned by Northumberland County Council and is designed for cars and buses as well as trains, the company immediately accepted it had made an error.

However, with regards to Stocksfield, it initially maintained the signs were legitimate – further angering residents, as there has been huge local investment in the car park recently.

In 2009, spurred on by traffic congestion in the village, particularly near the post office, Broomley and Stocksfield Parish Council successfully applied for Government cash to extend the station car park.

Half the cost of the scheme – £45,000 – was secured from the Department for Transport, with the parish council, Northumberland County Council and county councillor Anne Dale also contributing.

Northern Rail was then contracted to introduce 12 new parking spaces and make a host of other improvements, which have been well received by visitors, commuters and local businesses that use the car park.

Parish council chairman Coun. Maggi Hunt said last week there was “a lot of consternation among residents” over what had happened, with councillors being concerned about the lack of consultation.

“You would have expected Northern Rail to talk to us, particularly as the parish council and Northumberland County Council put in the bid for funding,” she said.

“Without our effort and input the car park would never have been extended.

“We are very disappointed that it hasn’t been to see us about this.”

Coun. Dale reacted to the news by setting up an urgent meeting with representatives from the county council, the parish council and Northern Rail.

After Stocksfield Community Association got in touch with Northern Rail’s client and stakeholder manager Drew Haley, however, the company decided to remove the signs.

“It is good news for the community that the signs have been taken down,” Coun. Dale said.

“I would like to thank all parties for doing what they have done; it is much appreciated.”

In Prudhoe, meanwhile, the removal of the signs last Friday dispelled fears in the town that the interchange may have been sold to Northern Rail and its original purpose abandoned.

The facility was created as the result of a competition for Government funding in which councils were challenged to get transport by bus, train and car interacting smoothly.

Mr Haley said: “Unfortunately, following incorrect information provided to Northern Rail by a third party contractor, signs at Prudhoe Interchange were placed in the wrong car park.

“We have liaised with Northumberland County Council and apologised for the error and would like to also apologise to any individuals inconvenienced by this.”