ON THURSDAY I visited Westminster to hand over our train station petition to Number Ten Downing Street.
Loaded with three boxes of petition slips I managed to get through the many levels of security to meet Erewash MP Jessica Lee in the Houses of Parliament where I had a chance to talk to the Department of Transport’s Parliamentary Private Secretary Andrew Jones.
As PPS to the Secretary of State Justine Greening, the Harrogate MP provides a critical link between backbench MPs and the cabinet minister and through the backbenchers to grass roots opinion around the country.
He already knew all about our ‘Get Ilkeston Back in Track’ campaign and seemed positive about the importance of getting a train station in our town.
It was soon time to hand over the petition and as I approached the most famous door in the country, I was struck by the enormity of what we have tried to achieve.
By all working together as a community we have all teamed up to try and make a difference and bring a vital facility back to our town.
Once again I would like to thank everybody who took part in our campaign and put their pen to paper on our petition.
Following us handing over the petition, Miss Lee had to rush to a regeneration debate in Parlament where she raised our train station campaign.
She said: “I apologise to all present for my late arrival for this debate. I was on the way to Downing Street for an appointment at 2.30pm to hand in a petition.
“It is a petition prepared by my local newspaper, the Ilkeston Advertiser, which has been running a campaign to re-open the train station in Ilkeston.
“This is a long-running campaign by the newspaper; indeed, it has been a community campaign for many years.
“The reason it is relevant to this debate is that we have already heard about a number of different aspects of regeneration, but for me infrastructure is at the heart of regeneration and it is a key element of what we are trying to achieve around the country when we consider regeneration.
“The lack of a train station in the town brings difficulties because it deprives people in my area, particularly young people, of the mobility to go out and seek extra training and new jobs.
“They could get to both Nottingham and Derby much more quickly if they had the mobility that a train service offers.
“Of course, a train service would also bring visitors, shoppers and new businesses into the town and, in my view, the resulting opportunities would be endless.”
The bid to get a train station back to Ilkeston was also discussed at a Derbyshire County Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Councillors renewed their pledge to continue pursuing their plans and were told how recently updated passenger forecasts for a new station help to strengthen the bid – with numbers expected to exceed 150,000 in the first full year of operation.
Officers believe this would produce a revenue stream to easily cover operating costs and could even persuade Network Rail to fund the project themselves and use the high passenger numbers to underwrite the funding.
So while we have handed in the petition this week, our campaign is far from over.
While we are hearing positive noises from those responsible for taking our bid forward, here at the Advertiser we will not be resting on our laurels and will continue to push this forward for our town.