Corby railway station booking office has been hit with another series of closures just months after passengers received reassurance from a government minister.
The building - that houses the ticket desk, the automatic ticketing machine, the cafe and the toilets, has been subject to a series of closures on various days during the past few years because of staff shortages.
Further closures were planned for today (Friday, February 8) and tomorrow, as well as the next two Fridays and Saturdays. Although all trains run as normal through the closures, passengers are not able to use any of the station facilities which are inside the locked building.
One of these dates - Friday, February 22 - is the day when celebrations had been planned to mark the tenth anniversary of the reopening of the station, which took place the day after, on February 23 2009.
After pressure from rail campaigner David Fursdon and Corby MP Tom Pursglove this week, East Midlands Trains which runs the station on behalf of Network Rail, last night backed down and said they will do what it takes to open the station for the celebratory anniversary event.
It is also hoped that the other closures could now be called-off.
Campaigners say the issues began when the number of staff was cut from five to three.
The ticket office is compelled to open between the hours of 6.30am and 1pm on weekdays, from 9am to 3pm on Saturdays and from 8am to 3pm on Sundays.
Last year, rail minister Jo Johnson promised commuters that there were ‘no plans’ to downgrade the station after MP Tom Pursglove pressed him on the issue. Mr Johnson also promised that he would speak to bosses at East Midlands Trains about the series of closures. Despite this, the issues have persisted.
Mr Fursdon, who was instrumental in the campaign to get the station reopened ten years ago, said: “I am disappointed East Midlands Trains have decided to do this as we approach Corby station’s 10th anniversary.
“I don’t see Wellingborough, Kettering or Market Harborough stations closing for a whole day so why should Corby?
“The reopening of the rail link has helped boost the town’s regeneration and enable the public to travel more freely to and from the town.
“The staffing issues at Corby station have been on going for several years and despite new staff trading the situation is worse than ever.
“East Midlands Trains should in my opinion be encouraging more passengers to travel from Corby station instead of causing them frustration that sees many Corby rail users getting a better offer at other local stations.”
Corby was the largest town without its own railway station after the original line’s post-Beeching closure.
But a long-running push by local people including a 10,000 name petition prompted local regeneration bodies to finally reopen the station on February 23, 2009.
This week’s proposed closures came as work began to extend the southern end of the platform as part of a line upgrade.
The platform will be extended to allow 12-carriage trains to stop at Corby from December 2020. New electrification gantries have already been built.
Mr Pursglove, MP for Corby, stepped in yesterday to ensure the office remains open during its normal hours. He said: “I have been actively raising constituents’ concerns about staffing levels at Corby railway station with Ministers at the Department for Transport, and with the current operator.
“I have to say I was particularly disappointed that East Midlands Trains do not plan to have the ticket office open on the upcoming 10th anniversary of Corby station’s reopening, which we will mark as a community on the 23rd February.
“I would like to see an appropriate response from East Midlands Trains to mark this important milestone for the town, and have, and will continue to, press them on this point, in the hope that common sense will prevail.
“More generally, the ongoing refranchising process is an opportune time to press this particular point for the longer-term, given the desire of bidders to demonstrate added benefits over and above the minimum specification. As such, I will continue to press for the position with the ticket office to be considered afresh, along with making the case for more northbound services from Corby, ensuring improved links with northern destinations as well as London.
“We are seeing a multi-million pound investment in our local railway infrastructure, along with the introduction of more services to and from Corby - this is all very welcome, but I would urge a rethink by the operator when it comes to the ticket office, not least given the fact that demand only continues to grow in what is a rapidly expanding town!”
An East Midlands Trains spokesperson said: “We’re sorry for any inconvenience or concern caused to customers. We have plans in place to ensure the ticket office will continue to be open during its normal planned opening hours.
“There have been a small number of occasions recently when due to staff sickness, we have had issues in staffing the ticket office. We’ve also had a general shortage of relief staff which has now been resolved and we are up to our normal full complement.
“We are also looking to move the ticket machines to the exterior of the building so they are more easily accessible outside of the ticket office opening times.”