Government funding to improve rail accessibility for disabled travellers

Stations in need of accessibility improvements can now apply for vital funding to improve travel for disabled rail passengers as part of the Government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy.

The £20million fund will be used to help with the installation of small-scale enhancements for passengers with disabilities and mobility needs, such as tactile paving, handrails and Harrington Humps, which increase platform heights.

Combined, the Department for Transport says these improvements will open up journeys for disabled passengers, allowing them to travel with confidence.

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Discussing the fund’s launch on the 8th July, Nusrat Ghani, Accessibility Minister, said: “While many take for granted the ability to travel easily from A to B, access for the fifth of people who identify as disabled can be far from straightforward.

“We want disabled people to travel easily, confidently and without extra cost, which is why it is fantastic to be opening this fund today. I look forward to seeing what ideas the industry has for accessibility improvements as we work towards a more inclusive rail network.”

The funding – part of the £300 million Access for All fund – marks the one-year anniversary of the government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy, the government’s flagship accessibility programme.

Since its launch, millions of funding has been made available to improve transport accessibility, including funding for Changing Places toilets in motorway services and an extension of the Blue Badge Scheme for invisible disabilities.

The latest opening of £20million in funding follows an announcement in April 2019 by the Department for Transport confirming 73 stations will receive an accessible route into the station, as well as to and between every platform, to help passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility travel independently.

Mind the accessibility gap

Rail travel has traditionally been notoriously difficult for those with mobility needs, with a recent travel experiment highlighting how difficult using London’s public transport system is for people with mobility needs, suggesting wheelchair users’ commutes take 49 percent longer than that of an able-bodied person.

Working to address the accessibility gap, the government launched the Access for All programme in 2006 and has so far delivered more than 200 accessible routes into stations along with smaller-scale improvements at a further 1,500 stations.

Previous projects funded through the programme include the installation of Harrington Humps at 77 stations to help reduce stepping distances from the platform to the train; accessible toilets installed at 18 stations – including a Changing Places toilet at London Paddington – and a new footbridge and 4 lifts installed at St Neots Station, Cambridgeshire.

The government is also proposing a number of measures to be delivered in partnership with industry to improve the flying experience for disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility as part of its Aviation 2050 Strategy.

The work is all part of the government’s aspiration that by 2030 all major transport hubs and terminals on both public and private transport networks will meet the needs of disabled people, including toilet and changing facilities, straightforward signage, audio and visual messaging and space to navigate.

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