A call has been made for the impending Ilkeston railway station to be a ‘gateway to the town’ — in a week when claims the project is behind schedule were scotched.
The accusation was made during a debate at a meeting of Erewash Borough Council in which Labour councillors accused the leading Tory group of ‘waiting for the station to open’ so they can hold a ‘buffet for the Mayor and her entourage’.
“Not just for Ilkeston but for Erewash, there are big benefits economically,” said railway worker Cllr Howard Griffiths.
“It will be there for a very, very long time.
“The initial capital investment will be put back again and again, plus the increased land values in the immediate area.
“But we seem to be sleepwalking into the situation.
“What are we doing to wise people up to the benefits?
“Are we working with other councils to look at how we maximise the use of land in that area?
“How are we advertising it? How are we promoting that station? What actually are we engaging to bring that about?”
In April, with backing from a ‘Tiser campaign, Ilkeston won its bid for £4.5m of Government cash to build the station.
Labour leader Alex Phillips said at the council meeting: “We have basically got one opportunity to get Ilkeston railway station right and that’s in the coming weeks and months.
“It must be a gateway to Ilkeston with excellent links to Ilkeston and beyond.
“But this isn’t the case – what we are looking at is a £5m white elephant.
“The project is already a month behind.”
Derbyshire County Council’s leading Labour group is heading the project, which aims to have a station opened at Ilkeston Junction, off Station Road, by the end of next year.
Denying any delay, a spokesman said this week: “Our plans for Ilkeston Station are well advanced and we remain on track to submit our planning application shortly, with the work due to start next summer and the station open by December 2014.”
Councillors unanimously backed a motion proposed by Cllr Griffiths to ‘take proactive measures to maximise the benefits to Erewash people of the proposed Ilkeston railway station’.
Erewash leader Cllr Chris Corbett said during the meeting on Thursday: “I heard from [Erewash MP] Jessica Lee only yesterday that the station is on track and we are still likely to see a stopping service introduced with the December 2014 timetable change.
“There will also be a public information event giving local people the opportunity to comment on the station proposals.
“The station is just one of many good news stories for Ilkeston, just like the new college being built which will bring hundreds of students and staff into Ilkeston town centre creating the footfall to attract new shops and businesses, and of course our regeneration pot of £250,000 which is already making such a positive contribution to both Long Eaton and Ilkeston.
“The good times are certainly rolling in for Ilkeston, and the rest of Erewash, under the Conservatives.”