SOUTH East Cornwall’s Conservative MP made a desperate plea for help during the Prime Minister’s Question Time last week after the long-promised footbridge at Lostwithiel Railway Station was delayed indefinitely.

It was reported that Network Rail originally quoted £250,000 to £400,000 for the project almost seven years ago and Cornwall councillor for Lostwithiel and Lanreath Colin Martin (Lib Dem) secured a £250,000 contribution from Cornwall Council. 

Further investment in signal upgrades led to more frequent train services. 

A spokesperson for Cornwall Liberal Democrats said: “Good news for rail users but bad news for pedestrians.”

When the council pledged £250,000 for the bridge, it is said that Network Rail committed to pay the balance and build the bridge before the introduction of the new timetable in 2018.

However, in 2021, the project was derailed as a decision was taken to pursue a more expensive design.

The spokesperson said: “With every passing year, the construction schedule has slipped and the costs have mounted.

“A further timetable change with even more train services means that the level crossing is now closed for up to 18 minutes per hour at peak times.”

In 2022, Network Rail announced that a final price of £1.8-million had been agreed and a contract had been signed to install the bridge in “spring 2023”. 

Residents were invited to an open day to see the design and choose their preferred colour scheme.

But in 2023, Network Rail announced that the installation had been delayed again until “the end of the year”. Then in December, Network Rail revealed that “unfortunately the project is currently paused because the proposed bridge design from our contractor has not passed safety regulations”. 

On January 25, Conservative MP Sheryll Murray asked the Prime Minister: “I have no completion date. Can my Right Honourable Friend help?”

The Prime Minister replied: “I am told that Network Rail is currently working on a funding solution so they can take forward this project in the next financial year”

Cllr Martin has said the ‘Prime Minister’s response shows that the government has totally lost control of Network Rail’. 

Cllr Martin explained: “Translating the answer into plain English, effectively the PM said the money that’s already spent has left us with an unusable design. Work cannot begin on a new design until yet more money is found, so no work at all will take place before April”. 

In response a Network Rail spokesperson said: “A new footbridge for Lostwithiel is a long-held ambition for the local community, stakeholders and us - going back to when British Rail removed the previous footbridge in the 1980s. 

“In last few years we’ve enabled more trains to run in Cornwall following investment. This made the case for a Lostwithiel footbridge even greater. 

“We’ve been working with Cornwall Council, GWR and our contractors on potential options. Any bridge we agree to install over the railway must be functional, affordable and safe. Unfortunately, the latest proposed design has not met our stringent safety regulations so we’re now looking at finding solutions to overcome this. This will require some more time and funding. 

“We appreciate the delay to the programme is frustrating. Our priority is a footbridge for Lostwithiel that enables residents to get between the two sides of the railway - and we’ll keep working towards this.”