Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan weighs in on Fratton bridge row after Network Rail and Michael Eisner spat
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The row started after Portsmouth FC chairman Michael Eisner said Network Rail were not working alongside the club to build a new footbridge for supporters heading to the stadium from Fratton railway station. Portsmouth City Council, Pompey and Network Rail, have all been asked to contribute at least £15,000 each towards a feasibility study for the new walkway.
The council and the club have agreed this in principle, but the rail infrastructure body have not. A further £15,000 has been requested by the developer, leading to a total of £60,000. The study, and the subsequent footbridge if it’s built, are considered essential to allow for the multi-million redevelopment of the North Stand.
Mr Eisner said the study is necessary for any planning application, with safe rail infrastructure a planning condition of the development. He believes Network Rail should be doing more, but the public sector body disagrees.
The Blues’ boss inferred Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines should be removed from his post. Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, of Labour, said Network Rail should foot the bill.
He told The News: “Initial options for a bridge have been explored. Work is now well underway to secure funding for a feasibility study. It is very disappointing Network Rail won’t stump up the cash for this initial work, and I will keep lobbying them to do so.
“The feasibility study is key to the footbridge project receiving planning permission. I will continue to play my part in urging all those able to deliver the Club’s ambitions to get together and make this project a reality.
"This is vital not only for our fans, but for the future prosperity of our city.” In 2021, Pompey CEO Andrew Cullen outline the club’s vision for the North Stand redevelopment. The clubs plans consist of building 500 dwellings, a hotel, and commercial units around Anson Road on club land.
Mr Cullen said finances from this would be used to fund a new North Stand – increasing Fratton Park’s capacity to 27,000. He added that with larger crowds, a new walkway is necessary to accommodate an influx of rail passengers.
Mr Eisner said Network Rail “must not understand” the value this would add not only to the football club but the surrounding area of Fratton. He added: “Have you ever got off that train and tried to walk to Fratton Park? You put your life at risk.
"That (bridge) unlocks that whole area, which is great for the city of Portsmouth.” Network Rail said they were “disappointed” by Mr Eisner’s furious broadside.
They added: “Network Rail have already invested some money into early investigations that would feed into this feasibility study and unlock the redevelopment of the stadium. But the cost of redeveloping Portsmouth F.C’s North Stand shouldn’t fall on the railway.
“This new walkway, while a nice upgrade to have, wouldn’t directly improve the reliability for our passengers and we simply don’t have the funding right now." Mr Morgan said he will continue to work hard to bring everyone together for the people of Portsmouth.
He added: “I have always argued that Pompey’s success is our city’s success. Portsmouth is not short on ambition, but it is short changed on investment.
“Being frustrated by the lack of progress in improving access from Fratton Station to Fratton Park is what drove me to set up a means to bang heads together and deliver on the Football club’s ambitions.” The politician added there is a regular forum which enables all stakeholders to collaborate and find solutions.