Protester ‘barricades’ himself in station house
builder’s beef with nr over conversion costs led to drastic action - and national media attention.
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.”