An additional £100m of funding has been announced for The Access for All station improvement scheme. 154 train stations throughout the UK will be made more accessible by the end of 2014, and the programme will now be extended to 2019 so more stations can be transformed. The improvements include installation of lifts and accessible toilets and the reduction of the gap between the platform and the train.
80 station improvements have already been completed by 1st April 2012. (Click here to see the complete list) The remaining stations will then be completed by the end of 2014. While 47 of these stations are in London, funding is restricted to National Rail stations. Funding for improving access at London Underground is controlled by the Mayor as Chair of TfL, from the settlement from the Department for Transport (DfT) to Transport for London (TfL).
The Department for Transport has not yet named the next stations that will receive funding from the programme. Train operators are being consulted to find out where the greatest need for improvements lies. They will ensure a broad geographical area is covered as well as taking into account locations with a high level of disabled and older passenger use.
What you can do
If you live in or travel through a National Rail station which is not accessible and there are currently no plans to make improvements, this is an opportunity to take action. You can contact your local train operator and explain the difficulties you face at the station as a disabled or older traveller and the benefits that access improvements would make to you. You can also contact your MP to get your views heard. You may like to link up with other local people and organisations to have a demonstration, as local people did successfully at Crystal Palace, Hampstead Heath and Finsbury Park to lobby for a lift. The more people that raise concerns about a particular station to bring them to the attention of the train operators, the stronger the case for the train company to make to the Department for Transport that there is a need for improving that station.
News of the increase in Access for All funding was announced on 16th July 2012. The Department for Transport issued the High Level Output Specification Statement (HLOS). The previous Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening said,“I know that, for passengers, railways are often more about stations than about carriages and track. The HLOS programme that I am announcing today will… recognise the value of smaller-scale station schemes by providing further funds for the Access for All and national stations improvement programmes, both of which have delivered excellent results for rail users in recent years.”
Transport for All is delighted by this announcement. Access to stations increases the independence and confidence of disabled and older passengers. This allows greater freedom to find work, attend social activities and visit friends and family. The additional funding to make improvements to more stations will benefit the economy and boost the confidence of many disabled and older people.
The economic benefits of the Access for All scheme can be seen in a report published by the Department for Transport. The survey results show the average station improvement benefits of £5.52m outweigh the costs of £2.87m. So on average for every £1 spent £2.92 is gained.
Bromley South train station has benefitted from Access for All funding. The improvements to the station are estimated to be completed by July 2013 but there are already noticeable changes. A visually impaired train traveller commented on the work so far, “The new lift helps me get to and from the platform when the steps are too crowded for me. The station announcements are much clearer now and it’s much easier to know if there are any changes to my journey. I feel less anxious going to unfamiliar stations when they are easier to navigate.”