By Fethi Benaissa
Last month, the crumbling former Ayr station hotel has forced South Ayshire Council to put in place an ‘extended exclusion zone’ around the building, limiting trains access and causing major disruptions in Scotrail services to and from the station. The building is part-owned by Network Rail, a private british railway company, and majority-owned by a Malaysian businessman by the name of Mr Ung.
Although Scotrail has reassured its passengers that the station will continue to operate despite all, uncertainty remains high, as disruptions go on for about two weeks now. So far, no party is willing to assume responsibility on the matter. So who is actually to blame for this deteriorating situation?
On its twitter page
, Scotrail insists on the fact that it does not own the building. A ScotRail Alliance spokesperson said: “Ayr station is open for business and we will continue to do everything we can to keep people moving during this difficult situation. Our priority has been to keep Ayr station open, and we’re glad that we’ve achieved this.
“In order to provide the best possible service to customers along the route, we have made some changes to some services in and out of Ayr. Customers can check to see if their journey is affected on our dedicated webpage at scotrail.co.uk/ayr
He goes on to blame the situation on the council’s actions by saying: “We are sorry to our customers for any inconvenience caused by South Ayrshire Council’s exclusion zone. It is outwith our control and we’re working flat out to get people where they need to be.”
On its webpage
dedicated to updates about the former Station Hotel, South Ayrshire Council justifies its actions by saying that they were “in line with their statutory obligations – under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 – around public safety and keeping people safe”.
When asked why they didn’t intervene sooner, since the first Dangerous Building Notice was issued back in 2013, the council responds : “As we don’t own the building, we had no powers to take action until it became a statutory obligation under the legislation, which happened when the Dangerous Building Notice was issued in March 2018 and the issues raised were not properly addressed”.
People don’t know who to point the finger at. Craig Anderson is an Ayrshire College student from Patna, ten miles South East of Ayr. He spoke to me about how he was affected by the situation. “Because of the whole occurrence, I had to try and make sure I was getting to college in time. It’s a little bit of a pain to get where I’m needing to go” he said. “Just this morning the front carriage was completely full, so it’s a bit of a pain”.
When I asked him who he blamed for these difficulties, he replied: “To be honest, I wouldn’t blame anyone, but I would say the council is a bit of a pain. Because they are not allowing Scotrail to get rid of the building… the building is in a really bad shape, so, it’s needing to be taken down, that way everything is back to the way it was, people can just go in and out easily.”
That building isn’t in “really bad shape”. It’s the obvious anchor for any regeneration of Ayr as a seaside resort. “Take it down” and you might as well shut down the town, you’ll never get a good development past Network Rail.
The story here is “absentee landlord drags down town and rail service by not taking responsibility for maintenance of his building”!