Should this be the face of Sheffield in 2009?

THIS intimidating, graffiti-daubed, high-sided bridge is now the city's main pedestrian route over the railway – after East Midlands Trains suddenly closed Sheffield Station to non-passengers.

The shock closure of the station bridge to non-rail travellers yesterday has forced people into the cage-roofed and crumbling structure.

It is 75 yards long, but seems further due to the high, grey metal walls which almost enclose it. The bridge links the station tram stop and Park Hill area with the city centre via numerous steps.

Hundreds of furious pedestrians and tram users were confronted by the "unpleasant and dangerous" route after being barred from the station by a human barrier of officials, backed by police.

The decision by East Midlands trains was made to cut fare dodging and improve security in the station.

But it was slammed as a "disgrace" by those who now have to take lengthy detours, the shortest being via the old bridge.

JOIN THE DEBATE: Share your thoughts on the closure of Sheffield Station to non-passengers by adding a comment below and see what readers had to say when we broke this story online yesterday, click here

Mum Michaela Kelly, aged 29, from Frecheville, had to get help from passers-by to manoeuvre her pram, and baby Ruby-Ellen, down the steps.

She said: "I had no idea the station bridge was shut. It's come as a nasty surprise. After months of discussions they go and do this without warning. No wonder the staff were getting abuse.

"This alternative would be impassable for me without help. Where's the respect for customers?"

Linda Power, 55, of Halfway, said the old bridge was a security risk for lone women and dangerous for the elderly and infirm.

Geraldine Roberts of Residents Against Station Closure said it would "tear the city in two".

Coun Ian Auckland, cabinet member for transport, said it was "potentially the biggest blow for integrated transport in Sheffield for years".

Richard Caborn MP said he had been bombarded with calls from irate constituents.

He had immediately phoned East Midlands Trains director Jake Kelly to express his "disgust", because Sheffield MPs were still in discussions with the Government about alternatives.

He said: "It's unacceptable. They should have warned people and any checks should not impede free passage. I have asked him in the strongest terms to stop blocking the bridge."

An East Midlands Trains spokesman said a "line had to be drawn" after months of discussions. Manual barriers were a half-measure compared to the automatic barriers desired by the firm, he claimed.

He added: "It's not a problem of our making – we were left with no choice."

The firm announced it would allow parents with pushchairs to use the station bridge after The Star reported Michaela Kelly's concerns.

READ MORE OF TODAY'S SPECIAL REPORT STATION FURY

95% were against the closure but it went ahead

'A disaster for Park Hill flats'

'In short, it is a shambles'

Furious councillors have demanded Government ministers intervene immediately over the fiasco.

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