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Stations

Tordoff, the umbrella legislation covering disability projects can be a bit of a red- herring for the industry. ‘At the highest level, DDA compliance is

an overused phrase,’ he says. ‘In terms of the rail industry, there’s no such thing and we comply with numerous standards covering accessibility, including the DfT’s Code of Practice. If we have to replace a footbridge we’ll look at ways of funding improvements to its disabled accessibility, like providing ramps, or at least designing in a passive provision for an easier upgrade later.’ The original criteria used by the DfT to

select station upgrades under Access for All was based on station footfall and census data from 2001. ‘Taken at face value, that would have meant all the money was spent near to the capital,’ said Tordoff. ‘Obviously, that could have created political problem. So a more regional spending programme was ultimately laid down.’ ScotRail has been involved with

Access for All, but disability schemes are administered by Transport Scotland north of the border. Additionally, ScotRail has budgeted for a £40m works programme, funded by FirstGroup, as agreed in its franchise document. Major works include the provision of lifts at Edinburgh Haymarket and stairlifts at Glasgow

Below: Access for All footbridge at Staplehurst, Kent

Queen Street before the end of the franchise. A minor works programme will see the installation of new handrails and drop kerbs, marking of pick-up points, designated parking spaces and the provision of portable ramps on every train. ‘Under the minor works programme we

have installed variable height ticket office counters, smart help points with screens and RNIB REACT, an audio wayfinding system,’ FirstGroup told Rail Professional. ‘There are different challenges for

different operators, but Tocs responses will be subject to the way in which their franchises have been written,’ Sindall says. ‘When it comes to franchising, Atoc believes that the disability element of franchise bids should be scored rather than simply referenced as it is at the moment.’ Providing disability access is not just

about large engineering projects but can be improved with simple measures. According to Collins, Euston is Network Rail’s busiest managed station for helping disabled and elderly people with accessibility. ‘We have five mobility buggies available, along with staff trained in disability

awareness,’ he explains. ‘In 2007-08, we handled a total of 48,000 assisted-access journeys at Euston.’ Unfortunately, disabled user groups

sometimes report that they think services have not improved over the years. ‘Back in the nineties we took direct

action, when groups like the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network disrupted the opening ceremony of Leeds station’s new disabled garden,’ recalls Ruth Markin of the Manchester Disabled People’s Access Group (MDPAG). She adds that many in the movement

were angered at the perceived tokenism of the garden. ‘Once the DDA was passed, many thought our problems were at an end, but for many disabled passengers that is emphatically not the case.’ Markin cites a recent case, brought to

the MDPAG’s attention by a wheelchair user, where the lift access on Manchester’s tramway system was turned off at 7pm at an unstaffed platform because of the fear of vandalism to it. ‘It leaves the disabled community feeling like second-class citizens,’ says Markin.

‘Stations are just part of the problem for disabled passengers, trains can be even more challenging’

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