A RODBOURNE woman who started a petition to get the Bristol Street underpass opening hours extended says now is the time for her cause to be acted upon. 

Rachel Kirk started the campaign after being followed and harassed by a drunk man. The 24 year-old office worker believes the pedestrian underpass will make journeys safer and shorter for vulnerable people. 

In response to Rachel’s petition the council said it constantly reviews the opening hours for the through route – currently 7am-9pm Monday to Friday, 7am-8pm on Saturday and 10am-6pm on Sunday – and is looking to improve links between the town centre and the Designer Outlet. 

The killings of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa have shone a national spotlight on how safe streets are for women, with Swindon Borough Council getting a £550,000 funding boost to improve the situation here.

“I’m pleased to hear the news that something will be done to make streets safer in Swindon,” Rachel said. 

“I definitely think the underpass being managed and open should be one of the priorities for this funding.”

“It will make things safer for everyone, being able to reduce their journey time by using a well-lit area with CCTV and sometimes security management and avoid walking through a fairly rough.”

“But I think Swindon Borough Council should see the other benefits to it being open. The underpass timing ties in with the Outlet being open during the week, but on Saturday and Sunday it closes in the early evening, which means no-one can use it to visit the restaurants or get home afterwards.

“I understand for the council that it’ll be a cost but I think the underpass should be the first and foremost thing that they do, especially with this new funding. I just see so many benefits to it other than the ultimate goal of making a difference to make women feel safer.”

Rachel said the underpass being open would have helped her escape from the scary situation she faced.

She said: “Had the underpass been open at that specific time, I think the situation still would’ve happened, but I would’ve had that opportunity to get quicker access to home instead of having to walk for a long time with him following me.

“It provides that safety net for people like me if they find themselves in unwanted situations."