Portsmouth North Stand ambition boosted after enlisting fresh support for troubled Fratton footbridge project

Pompey, Portsmouth City Council and The Pompey Centre are keen to join forces to unlock the regeneration project

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Andy Cullen believes he has the backing of South Western Railway in the long-running wrangle over a new footbridge at Fratton railway station. 

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Last Friday, the Blues’ chief executive joined Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan and train operator managers from South Western Railway for a fact-finding visit to Fratton station.

A new footbridge and improved customer capabilities is central to the regeneration of The Pompey Centre, as detailed in the Portsmouth Local Plan.

The project would benefit Pompey’s North Stand vision, Portsmouth City Council and The Pompey Centre owners M7 Real Estate.

Yet while Network Rail have stepped away citing it a ‘non-essential upgrade’, South Western Railway are now on board as support grows, according to Cullen.

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He told The News: ‘We have built up a dialogue with South Western Railway and they are as keen as us to get some development going in that direction. It’s not just about match-days, but what can be delivered every day of the year.

‘Network Rail are responsible for all infrastructure, such as the railways, buildings and stations. Whereas South Western Railway are the train operator and provide the trains and the services.

‘The third party in this, who we are quite keen to work with, is the Department Of Transport. They hold all the budgets and, strategically, have quite a big say in how railways and roads develop. It’s just exploring where we can build that relationship up to help us achieve the long-term objectives.

‘We have some really, really good support. Portsmouth City Council see its value, they have bigger plans involving regenerating the whole area and need more houses in Portsmouth, while the owners of The Pompey Centre, M7 Real Estate, also want to develop their site.

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‘Network Rail have been good in terms of producing a plan that shows three or four different routes, but that’s as far as it goes. We don’t yet know what all that means, what it costs and where the bridges land, in a lot of cases likely on land owned by M7.

‘That’s why we need a feasibility study, which we believe will cost in the region of £60,000 - and we're willing to contribute.

‘But we do not feel it should all be on Portsmouth Football Club to pay and nor should it all be on Portsmouth City Council. A number of parties benefit and there are four stakeholders.

‘Network Rail have made it quite clear they won’t commit to a feasibility study even though, from our perspective, we feel there is huge benefit in terms of their strategic business objectives and economic regeneration.

Pompey have earmarked the North Stand for a £60-70m redevelopment - but firstly must negotiate a new Fratton railway station footbridge. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImagesPompey have earmarked the North Stand for a £60-70m redevelopment - but firstly must negotiate a new Fratton railway station footbridge. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages
Pompey have earmarked the North Stand for a £60-70m redevelopment - but firstly must negotiate a new Fratton railway station footbridge. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages
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‘We’d like them to contribute and will continue to put pressure on them, but they won’t, so the ball is back in our court to make it happen.

‘There is commitment from some of the parties. I won’t say who is in and who is out, but there is a good commitment at the moment. If all the other parties can come together then we can crack on with it.’

And, according to Cullen, attention will then turn to the North Stand.

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He added: ‘Once the Milton End stage is complete, the ambition is to look at where we can further increase capacity. 

‘That would be developing the North Stand. You are talking about a £60-70m investment to make that happen, while having an extra 5-8,000 seats will take you a long, long time to get the return on the investment.

‘There’s a lot of ways of doing it, so it’s looking at enabling development, looking at what we can do with the land we own behind the North Stand - and that is consistent with the Portsmouth Local Plan.

‘We’re looking at residential development there, a hotel is another commercial development, and that will help raise a significant part of the finance to be able to fund the North Stand.’