Last week, the Department for Transport announced £300 million of funding to help improve access to 73 railway stations over the next five years. Transport Accessibility Minister, Nusrat Ghani MP, explains why the Government is taking action to make public transport more inclusive for disabled passengers.
Travelling by train can be difficult if you’re disabled
Britain’s railways connect communities, open up work and educational opportunities for millions and provide links to some of the most beautiful parts of this country. Yet for many disabled people, taking full advantage of these opportunities is a pipedream.
Stations without facilities such as lifts or wheelchair ramps don’t just stop disabled people from easily travelling from A to B – they also have a wider, more insidious impact. A lack of easy access to public transport limits job prospects, restricts socialising and can leave those affected feeling disconnected and undervalued.
To put it simply, a wheelchair user should not have to go miles to find a station equipped with a lift or a ramp, and someone who is blind should not be deterred from travelling by train because they are unsure about whether they can navigate the platform safely.
It doesn’t have to be this way
As Transport Accessibility Minister I am determined to remove these barriers and ensure that disabled people have the same access to rail travel as everyone else. It’s why last week my Department announced £300 million to improve disabled access at 73 stations across the country.
The funding, to be spent over the next five years, is part of the Government’s Access for All programme, which aims to create more accessible railway stations. The money will be used for major upgrades, such as footbridges and lifts, as well as a host of smaller but vital changes. That could include things like better signage and lighting, as well as new visual and audible systems.
It’s my hope these measures will create a host of new accessible railway routes throughout the country. This will create more work, travel and social opportunities for disabled people and enabling everyone to travel by rail.
Inclusive travel means more than rail
My Department is also working hard on ensuring our wider transport network – not just railways, but roads, buses, aeroplanes and ferries too – is open to all. That’s why last year we announced our Inclusive Transport Strategy. The strategy lays out how the Government plans to build a transport system that will enable disabled people to travel easily, confidently and without extra cost.
It includes £2 million of funding for fully accessible toilets at motorway service stations, and £2 million for audio and visual equipment on buses. We know that attitudes can be a major barrier to disabled people travelling, so we are also launching a passenger awareness campaign to increase disability awareness and reduce hate crime on our network.
These measures mark significant progress towards creating a transport network that is genuinely inclusive. We have been working with Scope and other disability organisations to help make these measures a reality. I’m also delighted to see that many transport firms have made some major advances on this front.
Nonetheless there is far more to do if we are to make real change for disabled people. This is something I am committed to achieving for the benefit for passengers and for Britain as a whole.
If we are to accomplish this government’s goal of building a country that works for everyone, it is crucial we create a transport network that is open to all.