SOUTH West Trains has hit back at claims that Aldershot railway station is a target for drug dealers — despite admi-tting only last month that it locked the toilets to deter them.

An SWT spokeswoman said this week: "It is wrong to portray Aldershot as a drug infested hellhole. We don't treat Aldershot as any different to any other station. It is not a hotbed of crime."

Yet only last month a spokeswoman explained why the station toilets had been closed for months, by saying: "We had a problem with people using the toilets to inject drugs. These facilities have been abused so much that we have decided to shut them down.

"We'd love to have all our facilities open to the public, but that's not going to happen.

"It is the few that spoil it for the masses."

Local councillors and MPs have visited the site following a flood of complaints about groups of rowdy youths and people openly dealing drugs.

A railway staff member who did not want to be identified told the Mail that nine syringes were found in two days.

Rushmoor councillor David Clifford said: "We went to look at the station because we are really concerned that drug abuse is creating an unsatisfactory environment for commuters and rail users.

"We want to encourage people to use public transport, but these problems aren't being addressed.

"People don't want to be confronted by youths and needles in the toilets. It is an issue that needs addressing."

The SWT spokeswoman said the company is doing all it can.

"We have what we call a Sharps box at the station where staff put drug paraphernalia they find discarded on the station grounds, but since we've installed this box we haven't had to put anything in it. This is a positive sign."

She said new CCTV cameras have been installed to try to stop people hiding in unlit and unpatrolled areas.

She said: "We have put more cameras around the cycle sheds and lockers so we can see if people are meeting behind them.

"New fencing is also being installed to stop people from getting round the back of the lockers."

Cllr Roger Kimber, who was part of the group looking at the station, said he was disgusted with the general appearance of the building and its surroundings.

He said: "Nothing gets repaired. There are lights lying smashed all over the place, signs are left bent and there's a fire extinguisher discarded in the car park that's been there for three months.

"It's just not being tended and doesn't look good for the town when people get off the train and it's the first thing they see. It needs to be cleaned up."

Lights on the footbridge have been smashed, leaving commuters to walk across in darkness, but SWT now plans to put protection around the lights.

"We also have Travel Safe officers who patrol the area to reassure our passengers that the area is kept safe for them," said the spokeswoman.

"Aldershot is not consi-dered to be any worse than other station in the area which is part of a large town."

SWT launched Operation Take Back the Track last month.

This involved stepping up barrier checks and police patrols.

More station staff were also made available to prevent people travelling without tickets.

Although the ladies lavatories have now been reopened, it was confirmed yesterday that the gents will remain permanently closed.

A key is available for customers between 6am and 11.30pm when staff are on duty.