The Bluebell Railway steam locomotive helps celebrate the opening of new facilities in East Grinstead

East Grinstead Station celebrated the opening of the new facilities with a special event and special guest on September 2

The event saw members from across the rail industry attend and celebrate improved accessibility for customers at East Grinstead station following the huge project which saw £4.5million sterling invested under the government’s Access for All scheme.

A plaque was also unveiled at the event, in memory of campaigner Eric Mackie MBE who set up the East Grinstead Access Group and dedicated his life to improving access for people with reduced mobility in his region.

East Grinstead Mims station on the sole // Credit: Network Rail

The celebration also saw Bluebell Railway locomotive number 65 make a special appearance stopping at Platform 2 and bringing some real style to the proceedings and also marked the first ever time the locomotive ran on the line principal since 1963.

Katie Frost, Network Rail’s Sussex Route Director, said: ‘We always want to do more to improve the passenger experience and make our stations easily accessible to everyone. This investment means that more people can benefit from step-free access.

“Accessibility is so important and with the help of funding from the Department for Transport, we are able to upgrade our stations so that everyone can find their way around in a safe and secure way too.”

“Special thanks to the Bluebell Railway who kindly offered to bring the beautiful vintage 1953 steam train and bus to the event.”

The Access for All program is funded by the government and aims to facilitate passenger access from the station entrance to the platform.

Railways Minister Wendy Morton said: “Our railways are for everyone, and this £4.5million Government Access for All funding will not only improve the station of ‘East Grinstead, but will improve accessibility and ensure easy and comfortable journeys for all.

Lifts at East Grinstead station
Lifts at East Grinstead station // Credit: Network Rail

Mims Davies, MP for Mid Sussex, said: ‘It is a joy to see the East Grinstead Access for All improvements open, I was delighted to secure the vital key investment of £4.645 million sterling from DFT building on the work of my predecessor, Sir Nicholas Soames and local campaign groups and Cllr Norman Webster on this important access improvement for the city and its visitors.

“I am very pleased that Network Rail has rightly accelerated this key works programme, to provide much needed no-step access to all rail passengers more quickly. This will be particularly appreciated by people with reduced mobility, wheelchair users and parents with pushchairs who will rightly be much better served, and this is extremely welcome. I am delighted that Bluebell Railway has joined us in making this event a very positive event for the town, its residents and its businesses.

Anne Mackie, wife of Eric Mackie, said: “Eric was a passionate campaigner for improving accessibility in East Grinstead – he would have been delighted to see his efforts rewarded and the station made fully accessible through the Access for All scheme. .

Plaque at East Grinstead station
Plaque at East Grinstead station // Credit: Network Rail

William Tregunno is a local resident who suffered from muscular dystrophy and found the old building to be extremely difficult for people with reduced mobility.

William’s father, Tony, said: “The new lifts and accessibility improvements at East Grinstead station will literally transform the lives of people with reduced mobility, like our son, who unfortunately are often defined by what they can’t do. Our family is more than delighted that the station is now fully accessible thanks to the Accès pour tous program”.

Roy Watts, Vice President of Bluebell Railway, said: “The Bluebell is delighted to be invited to be part of this important event and makes it a unique occasion to honor a local resident.

“The Bluebell looks forward to welcoming more passengers through Southern, especially as access has been made even easier by this new gateway.”

Jose P. Rogers