New Malden’s Liberal Democrat councillors have waded into the furore surrounding the town’s station, following last week’s shock news that South West Trains(SWT) will be closing the Dukes Avenue entrance.

More than 500 local businesses and residents have already signed a petition expressing their anger at the decision to close the station’s town-side entrance, which SWT has said is necessary to stop fare evaders after automatic gates are installed at the north exit on August 10.

Such a set up would mean people could dodge the barriers by escaping down the south side staircase, where there is no room for an automated barrier, if staff are not on-hand to stop them.

The north side booking office is also set to be enlarged - but station users are furious they were not consulted over the plans.

Beverley Ward Councillor Simon James said: “It is appalling that SWT has only just given notice that work will commence on 10 August.

“This was without any consultation with passengers or local businesses.

“While they did put a notice up, this was put in the passageway that users of the south entrance don’t use and so didn’t see.”

An SWT spokesman said “detailed work” was carried out in advance of the decision, including consultations with both Kingston Council’s planning department and passenger group London TravelWatch(LTW).

But Bryan Davey, director of public liaison at LTW, said the group had opposed the plan on the grounds that passengers with mobility issues, or carrying heavy luggage, would find it very difficult to get around the station, and other passengers would have their access very restricted.

He said: “My concern is that the (SWT) statement would appear misleading, and would suggest that we supported it.

“That’s obviously something we will be talking to SWT about.”

A council spokesman said they were “not sufficiently consulted” on the proposals by SWT, only being asked about the “very narrow and specific” issue of whether the works would need planning permission.

He said: “The council has written to SWT to register our dissatisfaction with decision to close the southern entrance to New Malden Station, and with the process that lead to that decision.

“In short we believe that the closure flies in the face of promoting safe, accessible, sustainable, public transport.”

He added: “At no point did SWT share their proposals with council officers who have responsibility for sustainable transport and public transport.

“We are encouraging SWT to reconsider their decision.”

Saleem Ali, who runs A1 cars next to the south entrance, said he feared for the future of his business following the closure, while hordes of station users have contacted the Surrey Comet to express their disgust at the decision.

A spokesman for SWT said: “A key part of the project involves the permanent closure of the entrance to the station on the platform four south side to ensure that there is no route around the gate line for fare evaders.

“While this will result in a small amount of additional walking time for some customers, it is necessary to protect revenues and investment in the railway that directly benefits passengers.”

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