LAWYERS have been called in to investigate whether a plan to block a public footbridge by installinmg ticket barriers at Kensington Olympia station is legal.
Transport for London angered residents by announcing it will close off the footbridge, used as a cut-through by non-travelling pedestrians, with barriers at both sides to reduce fare dodgers.
The MyOlympia campaign group, who lost their fight to prevent the removal of the weekday District Line service to the station last year, argue that the bridge is a public right of way - and they have the support of Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea Councils, whose territories fall either side of the tracks.
Brendan McGrath, of MyOlympia, said: “Even by suggesting this hare-brained scheme, TfL is acknowledging that this is an established right of way. But they are pushing residents too far. First they reduce the District Line weekday service, now they are coming up with a chaotic and haphazard scheme to make some pretty beleaguered residents’ lives even more difficult.
“This seems like a cut and dry case - that TfL are not entitled to go ahead with this plan as it stands. We have no objection to TfL trying to reduce ticket evasion but not at the expense of a well-used public footbridge."
The law says that for a route to be established as a public right of way, there must be evidence that it has been used for at least 20 years.
Sixty residents have written to the council to say they have been using the footbridge as a pedestrian route for at least 20 years and some residents have said they recall waving to troops, who were returning from Dunkirk, from the footbridge in 1939.
Hammrsmith and Fulham Council says it has called in lawyers to investigate the scheme, arguing it is possible to install the barriers on the platforms instead.
Councillor Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler, transport and technical services leader, said: “The council believes that there is strong evidence to prove that a public right of way exists over the Olympia footbridge.
“A large number of residents have written to say that they have used the bridge uninterruptedly for over 20 years and our lawyers are talking to TfL in the hope that common sense will prevail.
“We are urging TfL to re-think their whole approach and revisit the option to simultaneously maintain the public right of way and reduce fare evasion.”
But TfL bosses, who were grilled by angry residents at a meeting last week, say a permit scheme would get around the problem of 10 per cent ticketless travel at the station - compared to two per cent on the rest of the Overground.
A TfL spokesman said: "Gatelines are essential for revenue protection purposes, enhanced safety and security, and passenger re-assurance. We wish to implement a station permit arrangement, to allow local residents free access onto the station.
"The permits would be provided as paper tickets, coded to only work the gates at Kensington Olympia. They would be given to residents from a designated area with proof of address, and have a two year expiry cycle.
"Once we are ready to start distributing them, we will write to the eligible residents to explain the permit system and invite them to the station to collect their pass."