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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 February, 2005, 10:51 GMT
Train firm plea over old stations
Carlisle Station
Facilities at Carlisle station have been criticised
Train bosses want the government to change funding rules so they can recoup the costs of revamping stations.

Virgin Trains is responsible for several stations on behalf of Network Rail - including Carlisle, which has been criticised by passenger groups.

The firm admits facilities like waiting room heating, ticketing arrangements and car parking need to be improved.

But it says it cannot recoup the huge costs involved within the seven-year life of its West Coast franchise.

The call follows a report by the West Coast Rail 250 group, which praises the ongoing 7.3bn upgrade of the line, but criticises a lack of any station investment.

'Big issues'

Virgin Trains wants to be allowed to raise additional money to invest in stations.

West coast managing director Charles Belcher said: "We have come up with a figure of around 150m that we would like to spend on stations including car parks.

"However, we need to find a way that we can get an asset to be paid back over its life rather than simply over the life of the franchise and that will require a change in Treasury rules.

"If we can do that, the market, the banks, are quite happy to put up the money."

Peter Robinson, from West Coast Rail 250, made up of MPs, councillors and businesses along the rail route, said Carlisle station was a good example of one that needed improvement.

'Investment in stations'

He said: "Passengers are interested in the facilities that serve them directly.

"Difficulty in finding car park spaces is one of the big issues that we are pressing very hard on in Carlisle.

"If we can't accommodate people in the station car park, then they will drive all the way to their destination."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: "The length of rail franchises should not be a bar to investment in stations.

"Decisions are similar to those surrounding investment in new rolling stock.

"Affordability also needs to be taken into account when determining station improvements."

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