The R&T Times: Station gains disabled fund but others miss out

Only one station in Richmond will benefit from a £37m government fund to make trains more accessible to the disabled, despite half the borough’s stations having no step-free access.

The Department for Transport announced last week it was doubling the budget for its disabled access scheme, which had originally been set at £17m. 

Eighty-two train stations across England and Wales will now receive money to make improvements, including installing lifts and ramps and building footbridges.

Richmond train station, which already has wheelchair access through the car park, is to receive more than £320,000 to improve the accessibility of its lifts.

However, no other stations in the borough have been allocated any money because the company that manages them, South West Trains (SWT), did not make a bid for funding.

Santina Watson, whose daughter Clare is a wheelchair user, said: “Using train stations as a disabled person in Richmond is a big issue. There’s so many of them we can’t use and when we have tried to travel by train it’s been a really traumatic experience.”

Of the 13 stations in Richmond, six do not have step-free access or basic equipment such as ramps to help disabled passengers board trains.

These include North Sheen, Hampton Wick, Fulwell and Whitton.

Some other stations have only partial access. Half the platforms at Barnes are inaccessible, while wheelchair users at Mortlake cannot reach the northbound platform.

Mrs Watson, whose nearest station is Mortlake, said: “You can take the train out towards Hounslow but then you can’t get back again, which is crazy. There are steps leading up to platform one so you just can’t use it if you’re in a wheelchair.

“We tried to travel from Mortlake to Clapham Junction once and phoned the day before to request assistance with the ramps. But when we arrived there was nobody to help at either station and we had to rely on members of the public to lift my daughter out of the train onto the platform, which is obviously quite dangerous.”

A spokesman for SWT said: “We submitted a number of applications for funding [to the DfT] to help improve access to our stations. Our priority was to identify those stations with the highest number of passengers, and those where third parties were able to make a further contribution to maximise the funding provided by the DfT. We are committed to improving access to our stations wherever possible and every year invest more than £500,000 on accessibility improvements for passengers.”

Jamie Cutler, community involvement manager at disability charity Richmond Aid, said: “Richmond Aid is currently engaged in meetings with Network Rail, South West Trains and Richmond Council as inaccessible transport is a massive barrier to full participation in society for disabled people.”

By Jessica Abrahams. Originally published in the Richmond & Twickenham Times, 23 December 2011. View here.

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