Victory has been secured in the ‘Tiser-backed fight to bring a new railway station to Ilkeston.
More than 1,500 of you told us you wanted one when we joined forces with MP Jessica Lee to launch a petition, which was handed in at Downing Street in 2011.
Now it is full steam ahead for the project — and it is hoped the platform will open by the end of 2014.
In just over a year’s time this town of more than 35,000 people will once again be connected to the rail network for the first time in more than 40 years — a move many are hailing as a massive step towards the regeneration of Ilkeston.
The Government has confirmed the town will receive every penny of the £4.5 million it needed from its New Station Fund to pay for the station, which will connect Ilkeston directly with Nottingham and Sheffield.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who visited the site last month, said it was one of just four towns in the UK that will receive a share of the £20m pot for new stations.
The ‘Tiser’s Get Ilkeston back On Track campaign to bring the station back started in 2010 when the whole town was feeling the pinch of the economic downturn.
Former editor Peter Hemmett took 1,500 signatures down to Westminster with Erewash MP Miss Lee, who has fought hard in Parliament to help to make this happen.
Current editor Martin Hutton said: “This is wonderful news. A lot of people have backed our campaign and the success is richly deserved.
“I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Peter, and Jessica Lee, who has been unstinting in her efforts.
“Now we must make sure that the station is a catalyst for change and a prosperous future.”
It was Conservative MP Miss Lee who suggested the idea of a New Stations Fund to the then-Transport Secretary last year and she has battled hard ever since.
She said the regenerational effects were already being felt, with requests coming in from residents who want to buy homes near the new station, at the old Junction site, off Coronation Road.
“This is fantastic news and I would like to thank all the businesses, councillors, engineers, residents and campaigners for their support in putting Ilkeston firmly on the map,” she said.
Derbyshire County Council formally submitted the bid for the cash from the Government after securing funding of £2 million towards the estimated total cost of £6.5 million.
New Cabinet member for jobs, employment and transport, Cllr Joan Dixon, said: “This is great news for Ilkeston. It is the largest town in the UK without a train station, it’s nothing less than the town deserves.
“We’re committed to building a strong economy that creates jobs and grows businesses and the new station will help improve access to jobs, training and education.”
Townsfolk are pinning their hopes on the station injecting some life back in to the town.
Young entrepreneur Ashley Allen, 25, said it was a ‘positive’ step which opens up a new world of opportunities for the town.
“Living in a small town like Ilkeston, job opportunities are not always easy to come by, which is why many of the young people from our community I speak with have chosen to move on to a different town to make something of their careers, whether it be to go to university or to get the dream job they’ve always wanted,” he said.
“What this means for young people is easier commuting to college, uni, jobs, events, and opportunities, where at the end of the day they can jump on a train and come back to Ilkeston.”
But town businesses are hoping for a revival on the struggling high street.
Ian Viles, of Erewash Partnership, said: “Excellent news! This is a huge boost for Ilkeston that will trigger significant regeneration and development in the area.
“The new station will be good for the competitiveness our businesses and open up new opportunities for local people.”
David Vipond from the Ilkeston Independent Traders group gave a cautious welcome. “For the high street, it could be a double-edged sword,” he said. “It could make it easier for people to get to Nottingham.
“But we have got a window of opportunity now, before the station is built, to improve the appearance of the town centre, get some events going on the high street – and most importantly, get the council to advertise them.
“At the end of the day if it puts Ilkeston on the map it can only be a good thing.”
A county council spokesman said that work to finalise the plans will now start and the county council will continue working with Network Rail to ‘make sure’ the station opens before the end of 2014.