Make Pokesdown Station Accessible - Money Talks

I’m going to put aside all moral arguments about disabled access and access for people with pushchairs or bikes. Despite the overwhelming strength of these, there is another very different argument, and one which is just about simple monetary benefits.

In the past couple of years passenger numbers at Bournemouth have increased, but Pokesdown have decreased.This is odd to say the least when you realise this covers a period when the centre of Bournemouth saw a number of significant office closures (several still sit empty), whereas Pokesdown has seen new business move in with the reduction of empty shops, better crowds at Dean Court and of course an increased population. So what is going on? And above all is it really worth spending money on the station? One thing is for sure something is wrong for this station not to capitalise on the growth being seen elsewhere across the network. 

However it’s more deep rooted. South West Trains (SWT) have made it difficult or near impossible to use this station for years. It’s hardly surprising people have to use their cars, the bus or divert to Bournemouth station. pokesdown station

Official passenger figures are probably hopelessly wrong and underestimate the real footfall. Many people on long journeys buy tickets for Bournemouth, whilst the typical 2 or 3 stop morning commuters are tempted to avoid buying a ticket when so many local stations do not have barriers. Interestingly, SWT agreed when I joked that “probably half the morning passengers didn’t have tickets”. Apparently Pokesdown is renowned for fare dodging. Frankly I don’t blame anyone who has to struggle down the steps to think ‘why should I pay for this’. The fact is without barriers there’s no way of knowing the true passenger numbers. What we do know is that this station is probably more under reported than other non barriered stations.With numbers being under reported and less people able to use the station it’s not hard to see how much the area could benefit. 

How many more would actually use the station if it was made accessible or even refurbished? Well it’s fair to say that a 30% uplift is not unreasonable if you take into account how many families are in the area alone. But it could be a lot lot more.

Hotels located around Boscombe or Southbourne beaches don’t exactly shout about Pokesdown being the nearest station. Whilst it wasn’t scientific I did quick search on local hotels. The first three I found all said that the nearest station was Bournemouth and failed to even mention Pokesdown. To a certain extent I don’t blame them. Why would you send tourists to the nearest station when it is inaccessible for anyone carrying luggage, beach stuff, young kids or of course anyone but the able bodied. 

With the the ongoing regeneration of Boscombe, ‘Silicon Beach’, and the Coastal Activity Park there has never been a more important time to improve the station. It’s simply absurd to make all these bold schemes but not address underlying transport problems. There is a need for SWT to stop regurgitating the same tired and lazy lines about Pokesdown having relatively low passenger numbers. We know the numbers are probably higher and that significant promotion of the station just doesn’t happen. 

pokesdown stationTo be fair we will need more than just a half-hearted rebrand of station. A few years ago the station had a name change, apparently to capitalise on the Boscombe initiatives, but the rename does not solve the problems. Serious solutions require serious money.

We have heard it could be as much £1.3m. Well this is probably wrong. We have obtained the report that gave this quote. The actual estimate could be as low as £540,000. The original quote includes worst case estimates, inflation as well as costs that probably wouldn’t stand up in a proper tender process. Even take a midpoint then economic argument starts to make payback.

Of course the real irony is that it isn’t the council, or SWT trains that have to pay a penny. The money is from a national pot. SWT just need to show a bit of proactivity. That doesn’t cost a penny.

Ben Smith

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