Published: 12th May 2014
Rail Minister Baroness Kramer has announced the next tranche of funding to enable step-free access to another 42 stations. The investment will be around £100 million and has been made under the banner of ‘Access for All’ funding.
Previous work in this ongoing scheme is the provision of ramps, tactile paving and lifts being installed at key stations. Network Rail (NR) has been tasked with carrying out detailed designs and cost estimates for each station and the work is intended to be completed in five years. And of course its not just great news for disabled passengers, anyone with heavy luggage or a buggy will also benefit from the new facilities.
Baroness Kramer said: We are transforming our railways through record levels of investment and improving accessibility at stations is an important part of that.
These improvements will make a real difference to the lives of disabled passengers and those with limited mobility, allowing them to get to work and pursue leisure activities more easily. That’s good news for them and good news for the economy.
Robin Gisby, managing director of network operations at Network Rail, said: More and more people are travelling on our railways than ever before, so it’s important that we make taking the train as easy as possible for everyone. Better accessibility will mean a better experience for people with reduced mobility, carrying heavy luggage or travelling with children, but we’ll also be investing to improve signage and customer information for all passengers.
Dominic Booth, the Rail Delivery Group’s lead on stations, said: The rail industry has worked hard to improve facilities for disabled passengers which are better now than they’ve ever been with record numbers choosing to travel by train. This latest funding will mean improving even more stations all around the country to encourage disabled people to live more mobile lives.
The rail industry collectively chose the stations based on a matrix of usage criteria, local needs and proximity to nearby facilities such as hospitals or schools for disabled children. This latest tranche of work brings the spend to £460 million since 2006 improving access to stations. The ‘Access For All’ scheme will have provided step-free routes at over 150 stations by next year and the Government says that an additional 1,100 stations have also benefited from smaller-scale improvements.
This is not just an altruistic exercise but has been driven by European legislation and when major works are required at stations, disabled access work is also carried out. For example at Birmingham New Street, lifts and escalators are being modernised to help passengers.
But for every good news story there is a not so good one. Bletchley station was rebuilt and the track layout completely modernised 18 months ago designed to allow trains from Bedford to use Platform 5. This offers a cross-platform interchange for London services and is equipped with a lift.
London Midland claim that Network Rail is preventing them from using platform 5 for their Bedford services which is why they use platform 6 which has 37 steps and no lift.
London Midland said at the annual meeting of the local rail user group in April that things would not change anytime soon. They have also made 150 staff redundant thought to be as a result of not budgeting for their Class 350 train maintenance. About half the redundancies have been revenue protection staff which presumably means that more passengers will travel without tickets causing a greater revenue loss.
Just 10 miles north, over three million pounds was spent on a new station building at Wolverton which still only has disabled access to one of its four platforms.
One unique feature on Britain’s railways will vanish with the Access for All project. This is the passenger and luggage turntable at Brockenhurst station in Hampshire. The lack of lifts led to the provision of this unique facility which could only be used for 30 minutes every hour as when it is used, it blocks a line! It is understood that the turntable will go to a preserved railway.
Once the new bridge is completed later this year, it will be access for all at Brockenhurst, a key interchange station for the Isle of Weight and New Forest.
London and the South East
West Hampstead, Queen’s Park, Tottenham Hale, Peckham Rye, Seven Sisters, Chatham, Hither Green, Walton-on-Thames, Battersea Park, Streatham, Petts Wood, Blackhorse Road, St Mary Cray, Goldalming, Whitton, Virginia Water, Theale and Barnes.
East of England
Luton, Grays, Southend East and Manningtree.
Lichfield Trent Valley, Market Harborough, Warwick, Alfreton and Kidsgrove.
Liverpool Central, Penrith and Leyland.
Hamilton Central, Blairhill and Elgin.
Cheltenham Spa and Weston-Super-Mare.
Trefforest, Cathays, Barry Town and Llanelli.
Yorkshire and the Humber
Hebden Bridge, Garforth and Northallerton
One example of how the project can benefit a town is by looking at the two platform station at Cheltenham which will have lifts installed. This adds to the £167,000 spent on providing an extra 70 car park spaces and an £850,000 investment to the ticket office, all combining to improve the station environment.
On top of this, another £1.1 million was awarded by the Gloucestershire Local Transport Board because of a collective funding bid by Cheltenham Borough Council, Network Rail and First Great Western for funding to improve station facilities, the concourse and supplementary car park works.
Cheltenham Station Manager Richard Morrish said:
“We recognise the key role that rail travel has in supporting the local and national economy and we are delighted that this improvement work is to go ahead, improving access to Cheltenham station for all of our customers.