Pro­tester ‘bar­ri­cades’ him­self in sta­tion house

builder’s beef with nr over con­ver­sion costs led to dras­tic ac­tion - and na­tional me­dia at­ten­tion.

Steam Railway (UK) - - Steam News - BY DAVID WIL­COCK

A BUILDER bar­ri­caded him­self in­side the for­mer sta­tion­mas­ter’s house at Rib­ble­head sta­tion for two weeks, in protest at what he claims is Net­work Rail’s re­fusal to pay him the full £450,000 cost of con­vert­ing the build­ing from a hos­tel to a hol­i­day home.

How­ever, he ended his protest on Fe­bru­ary 4, but vowed to fight NR “all the way” for the money he says he is owed. For­mer para­trooper Dave An­der­son, 52, from Widnes, Cheshire, rented the for­mer Midland Rail­way house for one week from Jan­uary 20 in or­der to get key ac­cess but then bolted the doors, boarded up the win­dows, and stayed put for a fort­night, in or­der to draw me­dia at­ten­tion to his case. His protest worked, for his story was picked up by sev­eral na­tional news­pa­pers, fea­tured on BBC re­gional tele­vi­sion news pro­grammes, and won him a sig­nif­i­cant level of per­sonal sup­port on Face­book and other so­cial me­dia sites, with more than 2,000 peo­ple giv­ing him their en­thu­si­as­tic back­ing. On Fe­bru­ary 4, a bus­load of friends, fam­ily and sup­port­ers went to Rib­ble­head sta­tion to cel­e­brate his re-emer­gence. Mr An­der­son had orig­i­nally said he would sit it out at Rib­ble­head “for as long as it takes” for NR to set­tle the al­leged debt - but ul­ti­mately he gave up his squat af­ter two weeks, ad­mit­ting that he was miss­ing his fam­ily, and that they were also miss­ing him. Po­lice, he said, had warned him by tele­phone that he was li­able to ar­rest if he con­tin­ued his protest, and would end up in court. Al­though in­ter­net ac­cess at the sta­tion­mas­ter’s house was cut off af­ter sev­eral days, po­lice made no at­tempt to evict him. Mr An­der­son, whose com­pany DTA Con­struc­tion Ltd was con­tracted by Net­work Rail to un­der­take the £150,000 con­ver­sion of the for­mer Midland Rail­way build­ing, con­tends that ac­tual ren­o­va­tion costs es­ca­lated way be­yond the orig­i­nally quoted fig­ure by an ad­di­tional £300,000, and that to complete the con­tract, he had to bor­row £105,000, and also sell his £188,000 bun­ga­low in Widnes. He ac­cuses Net­work Rail of “fraud, de­ceit, lies and cor­rup­tion.” Rib­ble­head sta­tion­mas­ter’s house be­came re­dun­dant in 1967 when sta­tions on the S&C line were down­graded to ‘un­staffed halt’ sta­tus. It has since served as a pri­vate dwelling, and an out­door ac­tiv­ity cen­tre for use by schools. The build­ing, con­verted by Dave An­der­son in 2012/13, is leased from Net­work Rail by Set­tle & Carlisle Rail­way Prop­er­ties Ltd, and mar­keted as a hol­i­day home by the Set­tle & Carlisle Rail­way Trust for be­tween £620 and £1,097 per week, ac­cord­ing to the sea­son. Mr An­der­son has writ­ten di­rectly to NR CEO Mark Carne to make him per­son­ally aware of his griev­ance, but claims he has re­ceived no re­sponse. The only for­mal state­ment is­sued by Net­work Rail about the case, is­sued in early Fe­bru­ary, was still be­ing of­fered to the press two weeks later. It read: “Mr An­der­son was en­gaged in a project to re­fur­bish the Rib­ble­head Sta­tion Mas­ter’s house. We have pre­vi­ously met with him to dis­cuss his con­cerns. “We sym­pa­thise with his po­si­tion, how­ever, fol­low­ing a re­view of this case, we are sat­is­fied that he has been paid for the works un­der­taken.” Com­mented Dave An­der­son: “I made a stand, peace­fully, and I com­mit­ted no crim­i­nal dam­age. I left the house as clean as when I en­tered it. But my fight has just be­gun. I’m plan­ning more protests.”

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