A £400,000 scheme to improve safety at Pontefract’s Monkhill railway station starts next week.
The long-awaited work – paid for by Metro and Wakefield Council – will include CCTV, better lighting, extra car parking spaces and improved access at the Monkhill Lane station, which British Transport Police says was the site of 17 thefts in just six months in 2012.
Coun James Lewis, Metro chairman, said: “We have recognised for a while that rail services in Pontefract need a lot of improvement.
“One of the concerns people have repeatedly raised with us is that they simply don’t feel safe around the station. It is quite an isolated site so hopefully this work will make people feel more safe.”
The scheme follows years of campaigning for the station’s refurbishment by councillors, civic leaders and the Campaign for Improved Rail Services Pontefract, Knottingley and Featherstone.
Group member and Pontefract councillor Celia Loughran, said: “It’s very important that Pontefract stays on the map and this work will help make that happen.
“We have been fighting for these improvements for as long as I’ve been on the council and people were campaigning before that so it’s great that the scheme is finally get underway.
“We need this scheme for Pontefract’s future and it forms a key part in the town’s regeneration.”
The project is expected to take three months to complete.
Coun Loughran added: “We need to regenerate the town and I get comments from people about the state of Monkhill all the time. It’s not meeting people’s needs and people say it’s not a very pleasant place to travel from. Hopefully this work will lead to a safer, more pleasant experience for commuters.”
Coun Lewis said he hoped the refurbishment would lead to more people using the station.
He added: “The scheme has two different aspects. Firstly, it means that people who live in Pontefract and have to use the train for work have a more reliable service and a more pleasant experience. It will also help attract people into Pontefract and give people a quality service on trains into the town.”
Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper also welcomed the start of the work and said the station was key to boosting Pontefract’s economy.
Ms Cooper added: “Monkhill is a really important station for Pontefract but it’s under-used because people feel unsafe, particularly after dark.
“It is so dark and isolated but hopefully this work will make it somewhere people feel safe at any time of day or night.
“Monkhill has always been at the heart of the regeneration of Pontefract so it’s really good to see the improvements getting underway. I hope this is just the start of a series of improvements at the station.”
Despite celebrating the start of the work, campaigners say they will continue their fight for improved and more frequent services at Monkhill.
Coun Loughran added: “The fact that there is only one train to Leeds per hour is not enough, so we will keep fighting for service improvements too.”