RESIDENTS were today celebrating after the Government backed down on its plans for ticket barriers to be installed at Sheffield rail station which would have blocked access to the footbridge for non-passengers.
The Star can reveal that although the barrier proposals remain on the table, the Department for Transport is now willing to consider alternative plans so tram passengers and residents of Norfolk Park and Park Hill can continue using the bridge.
It follows a three-year battle by residents - who formed the Residents Against Station Closure campaign group - supported by councillors and MPs of all parties.
They wanted to be allowed to continue using the bridge, which they say is a safe, disabled-friendly access to the city centre.
But the Department for Transport wanted East Midlands Trains, which manages the station, to close the bridge to people without rail tickets so fare dodgers could not access platforms and get onto trains.
Today, Graham Wroe, spokesman for Residents Against Station Closure and Green Party member, said: “It’s been an extremely long struggle and I wish the Department for Transport had listened sooner. It felt like we were banging our heads against a brick wall but we have had enormous support from the local community.”
New Sheffield Council leader, Coun Julie Dore, said: “This is a great step forward, now station operator East Midlands Trains is consulting on an alternative to barriers, it would appear they have got the message from the people of Sheffield that open access through the station must be maintained.
“We have argued all along that there are other options available for EMT to tackle fare evasion than installing barriers and this development proves the case.
“I would like to pay tribute to Residents Against Station Closure who have campaigned tirelessly against the imposition of barriers and although we are not there yet this is very positive.”
Her Lib Dem predecessor, Coun Paul Scriven, said: “Before the election, I can confirm that I had a number of discussions with the secretary of state for transport, Philip Hammond, to come up with other options and I understand they are being actively considered.”
Residents Against Station Closure, supported by Couns Dore and Scriven, plus the Green Party, had held a series of demonstrations at the station.
Its members protested vigorously when East Midlands Trains held spot-checks in which rail staff, backed by police, would not allow anyone without a ticket to cross the bridge.
Sheffield Council supported the protesters, refusing listed building permission for East Midlands Trains to install barriers, and proposing to make the bridge a public right of way.
East Midlands Trains said it is trying to tackle fare dodging by encouraging its conductors to make more vigorous checks on passengers - and offering them commission for fares sold.
A spokeswoman for the company said: “This remains an issue for the DfT to decide, as the body responsible for letting our franchise contract, however we remain supportive of any initiatives to reduce fare evasion.
“We will continue to play our part in assisting constructive efforts to resolve this issue to satisfactorily balance the needs of local residents with the need to deliver what is specified in our contract with the DfT.”