A pioneering innovation which makes life easier for passengers using St Albans Abbey station was officially opened by the Mayor of St Albans today (11 Aug).
The new raised platform area helps bridge the gap between the platform and trains. It was designed and installed by Network Rail, working with Hertfordshire County Council the Department for Transport and train operator London Midland.
St Albans Abbey becomes only the second station in the country to get a modular easier access area – otherwise known as a ‘Harrington Hump’ after the station in Cumbria where a successful trial of the new system took place earlier this year.
Jerry Swift, head of corporate responsibility for Network Rail, said: “It’s really exciting to see the difference we’ve made for passengers at St Albans Abbey and along the entire Abbey Flyer line. Our thanks go to our colleagues at Hertfordshire County Council, the Department for Transport and London Midland for their support, which was crucial to delivering this innovative project.
“St Albans Abbey is only the second station in the country to get a ‘Harrington Hump’, which has made access easier for the whole community at a fraction of the cost of conventional methods. St Albans Abbey will be a shining example for stations across the country.”
Mayor of St Albans, Cllr Chris Oxley, said: “My warm congratulations go to everyone involved in this exciting project. Following all the other improvements made at St Albans Abbey station recently, this latest addition is a very positive step forward for rail users and I’m sure will be the catalyst for further improvements along this impotrant line.”
Alex Hynes, commercial director for London Midland, said: “The platform hump is the latest improvement and investment for passengers using the Abbey Flyer line and St Albans Abbey station.
“Building on the investment in waiting shelters, a ticket vending machine and the wonderful, decorative mosaics produced by St Peter’s School pupils earlier this year, St Albans Abbey is a success story and a template for London Midland stations across our entire network. It demonstrates what can be achieved by working together and providing better access for all.”
Stuart Pile, Executive Member for Highways and Transport from Hertfordshire County Council, said: “It has been a long-standing aim of the county council to improve access at St Albans Abbey station. I’m pleased that this new hump will help passengers who have trouble with the large step, whether they are travelling with push chairs, luggage or they have mobility issues.”
Cllr Pile also said that the council’s next priority at the station will be to investigate improving access for wheelchair users.
Railways first came to Britain almost 200 years ago. Different stations were built by different railway companies and there was no uniformity in their design. Consequently, the height of the platforms varied considerably.
This has left a legacy of stations for the modern-day railway that cause problems for the elderly, parents with children in buggies, people with luggage or heavy shopping as well as the disabled or those with impaired mobility.
The answer is a glass-reinforced polymer – more commonly known as plastic – hump that comes in sections so it can built to any length. It is also variable in height so it will suit any platform, no matter how large the difference in height between the platform surface and stepping board the trains.
Low platforms are a typical problem for rural stations, such as St Albans Abbey, which are served by a relatively small number of trains but are regarded as the lifeblood of the community. Unfortunately, finding a quarter of a million pounds to rebuild an entire platform simply cannot be justified in most cases. Now, thanks to the development of the Harrington Hump, it can be done for as little as a tenth of the cost, making it much more affordable.
The third station to receive a hump after Harrington and St Albans Abbey will be Aberdovey in Wales later this year. Network Rail fully expects more orders to follow and is keen to work with local authorities and train operators across the country to explore potential sites for the future.