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Railway station comes in for criticism

Created on 27/10/2010 @ 15:27


Welshpool’s railway station has come in for criticism from a local woman who reported its shortcomings to the Welsh Assembly Equality of Opportunity Committee.
Grandmother Su Rollinson, 63, stopped using rail travel after bad experiences and gave written evidence to the committee, highlighting problems with stations at Welshpool as well as Newtown and Machynlleth.
Mrs Rollinson has MS and uses a wheelchair and said platform access was a particular problem at the stations where footbridges with steps and steep slopes made it difficult for people in a wheelchair and on crutches to cross, as well as limited parking for disabled people outside stations.
“We are not best served in Montgomeryshire,” said Mrs Rollinson, a volunteer worker with MANGO, a neurological alliance in Montgomeryshire.
The Welsh Assembly Equality of Opportunity Committee has asked a number of disabled people to report on their local stations and have issued the findings, highlighting “significant shortcomings” at more than half of Wales’s railway stations.
Arriva Trains Wales, which runs most of Wales' stations, said it was committed to improving access.
But Joseph Carter, policy manager for the MS Society in Wales, said disabled people in the Welshpool area faced a second class system.
“Most disabled passengers as with any passengers want freedom to get on the train and go wherever they want rather than at the moment where theoretically there could be assistance if they ring ahead but where’s the spontaneity there,” he said.
“You’re creating a second class system where people who happen to be disabled can’t have the same freedoms the rest of us enjoy.”
The report acknowledges that the assembly government does not have full control over the rail infrastructure in Wales, due to it being owned by Network Rail, operated by Arriva Trains Wales and controlled by the UK Government's Department for Transport.
A spokesperson for Arriva Trains Wales said: “When planning improvements to premises and trains, Arriva Trains Wales takes the needs and aspirations of customers with disabilities into consideration and is currently in the process of improving a number of stations around the UK in order to enhance the passenger journey experience.
“Improving accessibility is not an easy task as many of the UK's stations were built in the Victorian era and were not designed to meet the needs of passengers with reduced mobility.”
The spokesperson added they had made significant capital investment in improvements to stations and rolling stock against a limited franchise commitment and worked with other bodies to deliver the best possible service under its current agreement.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We are currently working with the industry to invest around £85m to improve stations in Wales by 2014, and part of that includes funding from Department for Transport to improve disabled access. “
Disabled rail passengers can get help planning their journey via the Journey Care Helpline on 0845 300 3005.
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